Australia, once nearly free of coronavirus, reports worst case surge in 2 months

Australia’s second most populous state is deploying ambulances and mobile test centres in a coronavirus testing blitz, and will use the military in quarantine operations, as the country recorded the biggest daily rise in cases in two months.

Victoria state said 33 people tested positive for coronavirus in the past 24 hours, marking nine days of double digit new cases in the state. It has around 200 current cases out of a country total of 270.

Read more: Australia on track to be largely rid of coronavirus by July, official says

Desperate to contain the outbreak, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said authorities are beginning a testing blitz across the worst effected suburbs.

“We have ambulances and other vans that will literally be at the end of people’s streets,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

“We will see these (case) numbers go up in coming days.”

2:37Coronavirus: New Zealand PM Ardern calls 2 new cases ‘unacceptable’ failure of system

Coronavirus: New Zealand PM Ardern calls 2 new cases ‘unacceptable’ failure of system

The surge in new cases comes just weeks after Australia began easing social distancing restrictions, and authorities believe the increase in new cases stemmed from family get-togethers attended by people with mild symptoms.

Alarmed by the rise in new infections, thousands of people have flocked to testing centres, while Australia’s two biggest retail chains, Woolworths Group and Coles, have imposed fresh limits on how much customers can buy for specific goods amid a spate of panic buying.

Read more: With low coronavirus figures, Australia wants exemption to British quarantine rule

Australia’s death toll from COVID-19 was on Thursday revised up after tests showed an 85-year-old man who died in April had contracted the virus.

Australia now has recorded 104 deaths from just over 7,500 infections.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia has safeguards in place to prevent the virus growing beyond the control of authorities, as he insisted states and territories must continue to reopen large swathes of the economy.

Read more: 3rd new COVID-19 case in New Zealand sparks worry in once virus-free country

“We’ve gotta live alongside COVID. It’s not going anywhere,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney. “We’ve gotta keep forging ahead.”

Australia has committed to removing the bulk of social distancing restrictions by the end of July, but each state will determine when and how easing takes place.

Australia’s international borders remain closed.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)

© 2020 Reuters

Article Source