Australia posts record number of coronavirus infections
MELBOURNE: Australia reported a record 502 new infections yesterday, nearly four months after the epidemic initially peaked, with authorities warning the country was entering a critical new phase.
Most of the new cases were reported in the south-eastern state of Victoria, where authorities have struggled to bring an outbreak in Melbourne under control despite an almost two-week lockdown in Australia's second-biggest city.
Australia's infections previously peaked on March 28 when 459 cases were reported, according to data compiled by AFP.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced 484 new cases and two more deaths in the state yesterday, bringing its total of active cases to just over 3,400.
Australia, with a population of about 25 million, has now recorded almost 13,000 cases of the virus and 128 fatalities.
Melbourne residents will now be required to wear masks outside, making the city the first place in Australia to mandate face coverings in public, in a new effort to slow the virus spread.
But Mr Andrews said "further behaviour change" would still be required after analysis showed almost nine in 10 people recently diagnosed with coronavirus did not self-isolate between feeling sick and getting tested.
Just over half of the new patients also failed to stay at home while waiting for their test results, he added, saying the authorities believed insecure work conditions were a key driver of the trend.
Mr Andrews said casual workers across a range of industries, who do not get sick-leave provisions, were worried about "feeding their kids, paying their bills".
But they could apply for a A$1,500 (S$1,490) hardship payment if they contract the virus.
Victoria has effectively been sealed off from the rest of the country in an effort to contain the virus, but new cases have been detected in neighbouring New South Wales state.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian described the coming weeks as "the most critical" since the height of the last lockdown, when the state was Australia's hardest-hit region. - AFP