Coronvirus Australia: Fears of second wave following surge of cases in Melbourne

Officials say local lockdowns could be imposed

Matt Mathers
Tuesday 23 June 2020 12:44 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

One month after Australian prime minister Scott Morrison eased most coronavirus restrictions and declared the country was "on the road back" to normalcy, authorities are considering reimposing local lockdowns amid fears of a second wave of cases.

Officials in Victoria have reported double digit increases in cases in the state for 17 consecutive days, with 17 infections confirmed on Monday, according to official figures.

People in Melbourne – Australia’s second largest city – have been urged to stay in their suburbs in a bid to contain the fresh outbreak, while those living in Sydney have been warned against travel to Victoria.

Victoria health minister Jenny Mikakos said the worst hit areas – Hume, Brimbank, Moreland, Darebin, Cardinia and Casey – could be placed under lockdown if the number of new cases continues to climb.

Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, blamed the rise in cases on large family gatherings where “hugging and kissing” had occurred despite official guidance warning people against doing so.

Victoria’s rise in cases meant there would be “some significant community transmission” in the state, he added.

“One is from hotel quarantine,” he told reporters on Monday. “Two are associated with known outbreaks. Three are the subject of routine testing, and 11 are still under investigation.

“So what we can be certain of is that there will be some significant community transmission within those numbers. As we said on Saturday, and indeed again yesterday, this is still with us. This is not over.”

According to Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, there is “no definite definition” of a second wave.

“If this outbreak escalated and we had several hundred cases, that would be the sort of situation where I would be extremely concerned,” he said.

“But there is no official definition of a second wave, it’s a concept where the outbreak is such that you don’t think the public health measures can easily control it in the short term. At the moment, I have great confidence in the Victorian response, they are responding very effectively and we need to watch things over the next few days to see how it happens.”

Despite the spike in cases in Victoria, Mr Morrison has urged states and territories to continue removing the bulk of social distancing restrictions by the end of July.

“We have to ensure that we can run our economy, run our lives, run our communities alongside this virus,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney over the weekend.

Officials in Australia had reported nearly 7,500 coronavirus cases and 102 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon.

Australia has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic. The virus did not take hold as expected in March due to the swift introduction of lockdown measures, including the mandatory quarantine of travellers.

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