SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state deployed ambulances and mobile test centers in a coronavirus test blitz as the country recorded the largest daily increase in cases in two months.
The state of Victoria said 33 people tested positive for coronavirus in the past 24 hours, marking nine days of new double-digit cases in the state. It has around 200 current cases from a total of 270 countries.
Desperate to contain the outbreak, Victoria State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said authorities are starting a test blitz in the 10 worst-affected suburbs.
“We have ambulances and other trucks that will literally be at the end of people’s streets,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
“We will see these numbers (of cases) increase in the coming days.”
Andrews said about 100,000 tests will be performed in the next 10 days.
Victoria’s efforts to contain the virus will be complemented by approximately 1,000 Australian military personnel expected to arrive on Friday, Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said.
Most of the troops will assist with the mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in Australia, although Reynolds said around 150 people will also help the state testing program.
The increase in new cases comes just weeks after Australia began easing restrictions on social distancing, and authorities believe the increase in new cases stemmed from family gatherings attended by people with mild symptoms.
Alarmed by the rise of new infections, thousands of people have flocked to test centers, while Australia’s two largest retail chains, Woolworths Group and Coles, have imposed new limits on the number of customers who can buy products. specific in the midst of a series of panic purchases.
The death toll in Australia from COVID-19 was revised Thursday after tests showed that an 85-year-old man who died in April had contracted the virus.
Australia has now recorded 104 deaths from just over 7,500 infections.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia has safeguards to prevent the virus from growing beyond the control of the authorities, insisting that states and territories must continue to reopen large sectors of the economy.
“We have to live together with COVID. It’s not going anywhere, “Morrison told reporters in Sydney.” We have to keep moving forward. ”
Australia has pledged to remove most of the social distancing restrictions by the end of July, but each state will determine when and how the relaxation takes place.
Regular domestic travel is expected to begin in a few weeks, while sports stadiums will allow up to 10,000 fans to attend on July 1.
Australia’s international borders remain closed.
The reopening of Australia’s states and territories has raised hopes that its economy may avoid a prolonged depression, although it is on its way to its first recession in nearly 30 years.
The International Monetary Fund on Thursday revised its estimate of Australia’s economic contraction to 4.5%. Previously, Australia’s economy contracted 6.7%.
However, the IMF cautioned that Australia’s A $ 250 billion ($ 171.6 billion) stimulus package, which includes subsidizing the wages of 3.5 million people, should be carefully withdrawn.
Morrison has said the salary subsidy scheme will end in September, although other specific stimulus packages could be added, such as an A $ 250 million package for Australia’s arts sector announced on Thursday.
Colin Packham’s report; Editing by Michael Perry