SYDNEY • Australia yesterday recorded its biggest one-day rise in Covid-19 deaths, though the state at the epicentre of the country’s outbreak said the number of new infections held steady.
Victoria state said 25 people had died from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, more than the previous worst daily toll of 21 reported nationally on Aug 12.
The authorities in the south-eastern state said 282 new Covid-19 cases had been detected, about the same as the 279 cases reported on Sunday.
Those numbers are well below the peak of more than 700 daily cases in Victoria earlier this month, and health officials are confident strict lockdown measures are working to contain the virus.
The country’s second-largest city, Melbourne in Victoria, is in lockdown and still reporting hundreds of new cases daily, although the number is decreasing.
New South Wales (NSW) was the only other state yesterday to report new Covid-19 cases, with seven detected in the past 24 hours.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian apologised yesterday for failing to stop people carrying the coronavirus from disembarking from a cruise ship in Sydney in March, triggering what was at the time Australia’s worst outbreak.
Missteps in the handling of the Ruby Princess cruise ship have proven costly.
“The lessons weren’t learnt soon enough and again I apologise unreservedly on behalf all of those individuals and agencies who made those mistakes,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
A public inquiry into the Ruby Princess outbreak concluded last week that NSW health officials made “inexcusable” mistakes when they allowed about 2,700 passengers, 120 of whom were feeling unwell, to leave the Carnival Corp-owned ship on March 19.
The inquiry found 914 infections could be traced back to the Ruby Princess, mostly among passengers. The outbreak led to 28 deaths.
Ms Berejiklian apologised particularly to the 62 people who contracted the virus from a passenger.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like having a loved one or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result,” she said.
The inquiry commissioned by Ms Berejiklian’s government found that NSW health officials failed to ensure the ship knew of heightened screening for the virus, or ensure that sick passengers were isolated in their cabins. They also failed to get quick test results for unwell passengers before they disembarked.
In a bid to stem the spread of the virus, the NSW authorities yesterday said children will be banned from playing the recorder and singing in school choirs across Australia’s most populous state.
With infections hitting several Sydney schools, the NSW authorities moved to prohibit choirs and wind ensembles starting tomorrow.
“School formals, dances, graduation or other social events are not permitted,” the NSW education department added.
Although public schools in Sydney and the rest of NSW have reopened after initial lockdowns, the authorities said the new measures would help them operate in the “safest ways possible”.
Australia has recorded 23,500 Covid-19 cases and 421 deaths, far fewer than many other developed nations.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE