SYDNEY • The Australian state of Victoria reported its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus infections in seven weeks yesterday, fuelling optimism that a deadly second wave there is subsiding.
Victoria yesterday reported 116 cases and 15 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours, down from a peak of more than 700 cases early this month.
The state accounted for the vast majority of the 121 new cases in Australia in the past 24 hours, the country’s lowest single-day rise since July 5.
Australia saw a surge in infections in the past month in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital and the country’s second-largest city, but cases have been trending downwards in recent days, helped by a total lockdown.
“It’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra. “It’s a substantial reassurance that the overall trend is down.”
Australia has recorded nearly 25,000 Covid-19 infections, including 517 deaths, from a population of 25 million. It has avoided the high fatalities experienced by many other nations due to strict lockdown measures.
While the Melbourne lockdown has curtailed the spread of infections, it has wreaked havoc on the economy, with Australia’s effective unemployment rate expected to climb above 13 per cent by the end of next month, according to government estimates.
Nearly half a million people could lose their jobs due to the full lockdown in Melbourne, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Sunday.
The lockdown will also force one of the most iconic fixtures on the Australian sporting calendar, the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final, to be played outside of Melbourne for the first time in its history.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said an exception would not be made, even for an event so important to Victorians that a public holiday is observed the day before it.
“For the sake of one event – as important as religious almost, as it is – the notion that you would take a holiday from the coronavirus for the day so we could have the grand final for a day and a dose of normal, that doesn’t make any sense,” he told a news conference yesterday.
“That would only spread the virus. It hurts, but not as much as potentially spreading the virus more. That notion is not on the table.”
The Grand Final is the climax of the AFL season and usually takes place in late September or early October.