Australia posts record daily rise in coronavirus cases

Surge in outbreak in state of Victoria prompts tightening of distancing restrictions in neighbouring New South Wales.

The Australian state of Victoria on Friday reported a record daily increase in COVID-19 cases as neighbouring New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as it stepped up efforts to contain a new wave of infections.

Victoria, where nearly five million people in the capital city of Melbourne are now in a six-week lockdown, said it had found 428 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, a record number of daily cases for Australia. 

“We are in the fight of our lives,” Victoria state’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told reporters in Melbourne. 

Australia has recorded slightly more than 11,000 cases of COVID-19.

The death toll rose to 116 after the death of three people in Victoria on Friday, still well below many other countries.

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Victoria has been linked to breaches of mandatory quarantine by travellers returning from overseas, and has stirred concerns of a second wave of the outbreak. Neighbouring states have closed internal borders and renewed social distancing restrictions.

‘No mingling’

New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, said it found eight cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, saying they believed to have originated from Victoria.

In a bid to curtail the spread, NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said new restrictions would be imposed from next week.

Funerals and places of worship will be limited to no more than 100 people. Venues must also ensure they have four square metres (43sq feet) of space per patron.

No more than 150 people will be allowed to attend weddings, and they must remain seated.

“No dancing, no singing, no mingling,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

Less than a month ago, Australia was widely heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19.

But the security lapses in Victoria have put the state’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, under close scrutiny, with one of Australia’s biggest-selling tabloid newspapers running a front page with the headline: “Dan-made disaster.”

The surge in COVID-19 cases has also dented any hope of a quick economic rebound in Australia.

The country is on course for its first recession in nearly three decades, while unemployment has hit a 22-year high, data showed on Thursday.

Australia’s hopes to begin a “travel bubble” with neighbouring New Zealand also appear to be delayed. Australia and New Zealand had hoped to open their borders to each other in September.

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