World

Australia suffers record coronavirus deaths, triggering tighter curbs

Victoria state also reports record rise of 725 new infections despite re-imposing lockdown

MELBOURNE: Australia reported a record 15 deaths from Covid-19 yesterday, all in Victoria state, which was preparing to close much of its economy to control a second wave of infection that threatens to spread across the country.

The second-most populous state in Australia reported a record rise of 725 new cases despite having reimposed a lockdown on Melbourne, the state capital with a population of five million, four weeks ago.

New South Wales and Queensland states introduced new measures to limit the spread, which has claimed 247 lives across the country.

In Victoria, the state government imposed a night curfew and tightened restrictions on people's movements across greater Melbourne on Sunday, and ordered most businesses to stop trading from yesterday night in a massive blow to the national economy.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday further restrictions would include shutting most child-care centres and expanding a ban on elective surgery to the whole state to free up medical resources for coronavirus cases.

"The notion of more than 700 cases is not sustainable. We need to drive the numbers down and this strategy is designed to do just that," Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd urged Victorians to comply with the state's tight restrictions.

"I hope it won't be the case, but it may be, that the numbers will go even higher over the coming days before they start to come down as a result of the impact of the restrictions," he told reporters in Canberra.

BARRED

In north-eastern Queensland state, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said travellers from New South Wales and the capital Canberra would be barred from Saturday.

The state is already closed to Victorians.

"We have seen that Victoria is not getting better, and we're not going to wait for New South Wales to get worse. We need to act," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane.

After two months of no community transmission in the state, Queensland now has at least three such cases.

Queensland reported one new infection yesterday, while New South Wales, the most populous state, reported 12.

Travellers returning from Victoria to New South Wales through Sydney airport will be required to self-quarantine in hotels for 14 days from midnight on Friday, the NSW government said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that while case numbers in the state were "pleasingly stable, we continue to be at high risk".

BLOW TO ECONOMY

The closure of businesses in Victoria and curbs on construction activity, meatworks and warehouses are set to cost 250,000 jobs, doubling the number of jobs already lost in the state due to the pandemic.

In another blow to the economy, Australia's number two airline, Virgin Australia Holdings, said it would axe 3,000 jobs under its prospective new owner Bain Capital.

Australia's central bank expects the nation's jobless rate to spike to 10 per cent later this year. - REUTERS

WORLD