Australian authorities in Victoria said plans to ease restrictions on COVID-19 in Melbourne̵
Victoria, Australia’s second most populous country, was immersed in a week-long lock-in on May 27 to contain a virus outbreak, forcing the 7 million residents to stay at home, excluding mainstream businesses.
The lock was extended in Melbourne until June 10, while some restrictions were eased in other regions of the state.
Two new cases, acquired locally, both related to existing clusters, were reported on Tuesday, up from 11 days earlier.
“While we never want to see new cases, it is reassuring that we are again seeing these cases with clear links to existing outbreaks,” Victoria’s acting prime minister, James Merlino, told reporters in Melbourne.
Merlino said tracking contacts linked the source of the highly infectious version of the Delta virus to a foreign traveler who entered a hotel quarantine in Melbourne on May 8.
But officials said it was not yet clear how the Delta option was being passed on to the community and that further testing would be needed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would like the blockade of COVID-19 in Melbourne to be lifted as soon as possible and called on the authorities to balance the risks when they decide to close large parts of the economy.
“Further restrictions around the country should either not happen at all, or in a very, very narrow set of circumstances,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
Australia reported zero local cases for most days this year, urging authorities to ease restrictions by helping the country’s economy of $ 2 trillion ($ 1.55 trillion) recover sharply to pre-pandemic levels.
Although the number of cases remained in single digits for almost all days after the blockade, the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, first discovered in India, late last week raised fears of a sharp jump in infections.
The Delta variant has been classified by the World Health Organization as one of the four disturbing variants of COVID-19 due to evidence that it spreads more easily and is most likely to have caused the latest devastating wave of COVID-19 in India.
Australia has done better than many other developed countries in the content of COVID-19, largely with rapid blocking, regional border restrictions and strict rules for social distancing. Just under 30,200 cases and 910 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
The latest outbreak has caused an increase in the number of people being inoculated across Australia as federal, state and local governments seek to accelerate the pace of slow vaccination across the country.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, said Tuesday it would build a second mass vaccination center as South Australia expanded its reach to include people in their 40s. The Northern Territory has made vaccines eligible for people over the age of 16.
About 20% of Australia’s adult population has received their first dose of the vaccine, and about 5.1 million photos are currently available.
($ 1 = A $ 1.2905)
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