FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk along a street in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing in public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria will take longer than the current six-week lockdown period to stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities said on Monday, as the country battles to contain a second wave of the virus.
Australia, one of the least-hit countries by the pandemic with just over 14,400 cases and 155 deaths, imposed strict lockdown measures in the early stages of the outbreak to contain the spread of the virus, gradually easing them in May.
But a resurgence of cases in Victoria over the past few weeks forced the southeastern state to reimpose a six-week lockdown in its capital Melbourne early this month. The city’s five million residents were also ordered to wear face masks or risk a A$200 ($142) fine.
Victoria on Sunday suffered its deadliest day since the pandemic began after reporting 10 deaths, mostly at aged-care facilities, as well as 459 new cases, its second-highest daily increase.
As the state moves into its third week of lockdown, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said it might take Victoria longer than six weeks to flatten the coronavirus curve as the virus was now “embedded” within the community.
“Whilst we know the curve will flatten and will bend down the other side, it is going to take longer,” Coatsworth told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television.
Neighbouring New South Wales state is also grappling with several virus clusters that have sprung up at a hotel, a Thai restaurant and a club. However most new cases have been linked to known sources.
Authorities have urged people to avoid non-essential travel and social gatherings, and to wear masks indoors when they are unable to follow social distancing rules.
Reporting by Renju Jose; editing by Richard Pullin