Australia's COVID-19 hotspot cases inch up, but officials optimistic

FILE PHOTO: A member of the medical personnel is seen outside the Florence Aged Care Facility amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – New daily coronavirus infections in Australia’s hotspot of Victoria climbed back to double digits on Sunday with 12 cases recorded but authorities said the state is on track to be able to ease its social distancing restrictions in coming weeks.

The dozen new coronavirus cases follow eight infections reported on Saturday and single-digit numbers for most of the past week.

Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has been under a strict lockdown for nearly three months. Retail and restaurants operate only on take away or delivery orders only, while people can exercise or socialise outdoors for a maximum of two hours a day and must wear masks in public places.

Most restrictions will be eased when the average number of new daily cases over a two-week window falls below five. The 14-day rolling case average for Melbourne has been going steadily down and it is now at 11.9.

“We are so, so close,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.

“If we continue these numbers, continue this trend, we are ready to take that step. All things being equal, that will be just a couple of weeks.”

With temperatures reaching 28 Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) over the weekend, the highest in months, police said they were stepping up patrolling as hundreds of Melbourne residents flocked to beaches..

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, accounts for 90% of national COVID-19 deaths. Australia, with 894 fatalities, has fared far better than many other developed countries.

Australia has had just over 27,000 infections, according to health ministry data.

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