Australia reports lowest rise in COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The rate of new COVID-19 infections in an Australian hot spot slowed on Thursday, officials reported, raising hopes a second wave of the coronavirus is being brought under control.

Victoria state logged 278 new daily infections, down from 410 a day earlier and the lowest single-day rise in more than three weeks.

The state, home to the city of Melbourne which has been the epicentre of the latest outbreak, also recorded eight deaths over the past 24 hours. Victoria had reported 21 deaths on Wednesday, marking Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far.

The fresh outbreak in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, forced authorities to last week impose a night curfew tighten restrictions on people’s daily movements and order large parts of state economy to close.

Neighbouring New South Wales state is also on alert, having reported daily new infections in the teens for the past several weeks.

Officials warned that a failure by people there to observe social distancing guidelines could fuel community transmission, as they scrambled to trace several clusters.

“People only have to look across the border into Victoria to see what happens when people don’t adhere to the physical distancing restrictions,” Michael Kidd, national Deputy Chief Medical Officer, told Australian Broadcasting Corp television. “We could have in New South Wales the same sort of consequences that we’re seeing in Victoria.”

NSW was yet to report daily case and fatality figures for Thursday. The virus has been effectively eliminated in Australia’s other states and territories.

Australia has recorded just over 22,000 cases and 352 deaths since the pandemic began.

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