SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second most populous state said on Monday it is considering reimposing social distancing restrictions after the country reported its biggest one-day increase in new coronavirus infections in more than two months.
FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint press conference at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore on June 7, 2019. Wallace Woon / Pool via REUTERS
While many states and territories have yet to report their latest numbers, Victoria said it has detected 75 cases in the past 24 hours, enough to make it Australia’s largest daily outbreak since April 11.
Rising numbers have fueled fears of a second wave in Australia after several weeks of fewer than 20 new cases per day, and they occur as the global death toll from the virus exceeds half a million people.
As new coronavirus cases increased, Victoria embarked on a massive testing regimen and the state’s director of health said the state may need to reintroduce social distancing restrictions.
“Changing the law is something that we have to consider because we have to do whatever it takes to change this,” Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne, referring to questions about applying localized locks.
Last week, Victorian state officials deployed ambulances and mobile test centers in a bid to assess the majority of residents in 10 critical point suburbs.
However, some locals rejected the voluntary throat and nasal swab tests. Victoria hopes that a new, less intrusive saliva test will encourage more people to get tested, albeit a little less accurately.
“” We believe it will play a role in strengthening the scope of testing across the state, “said Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute, who developed the test.
“Vulnerable populations or people who have problems with throat swab, such as children or others who find it more acceptable.”
MORE ENCOURAGEMENT NEEDED
In May, Victoria, home to more than 6 million people, began lifting restrictions imposed a month earlier to delay the spread of the virus.
It has vowed to remove most of the restrictions by the end of July.
The restrictions, which include forcing restaurants and cafes to offer only take-out services, closing schools, and stopping sports, proved successful in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
But it was a severe blow to Australia’s economy, which is headed for its first recession in three decades, as the unemployment rate peaks at 19 years of 7.1%.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on states to continue easing the restrictions, insisting that the country’s economy must be revived.
Morrison ruled out a general extension of a $ 60 billion ($ 41.1 billion) wage subsidy scheme beyond its scheduled end in September.
“It cannot be sustained forever,” Morrison said, adding that another stimulus phase in late September would be “for the people who need it most.”
The Grattan Institute, an independent group of experts, said in a report released Monday that the government needs to inject up to A $ 90 billion more in stimulus, including the extension of its wage subsidy program.
That stimulus was necessary before the annual budget in October to reduce the unemployment rate to around 5% in mid-2022, according to the report.
($ 1 = 1.4592 Australian dollars)
Reports by Renju Jose and Colin Packham; Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast Edition