Sydney, Australia, Jul 8 (efe-epa).- The lockdown imposed in the city of Melbourne due to a spike in COVID-19 cases will cost Australia about AU$6 billion ($4.17 billion), the federal treasurer said Wednesday.
The second most populous city in the country, with about 5 million residents, was to be placed under lockdown again on Wednesday morning for a period of six weeks, although this time around the confinement measures will be tougher than those imposed between mid-March and May.
The authorities of Victoria state have also imposed a lockdown in Mitchell Shire, some 77 kilometers (48 miles) north of the regional capital and with a population of 44,000.
“The cost to Victoria is up to (AU)$1 billion a week, and that will fall heavily on businesses,” Josh Frydenberg told public broadcaster ABC.
Australia, which has recorded more than 8,750 confirmed cases since the start of the epidemic, including 106 deaths, had managed to check the advance of the virus and was already in the final phase of lifting restrictions toward the so-called “new normal,” until the outbreak in Victoria.
The state’s economy accounts for 23 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Victoria has also been cut off from other Australian territories as the closure of the shared border with the neighboring state of New South Wales, Australia’s largest in terms of population and economy, came into effect on Tuesday night.
The outbreak and subsequent lockdown in Melbourne, which the authorities attribute to breaches of infection control protocols by security guards in hotels where travelers returning to the city undergo a 14-day quarantine, added 134 new cases on Wednesday to take the total infections to over 1,000.
Although this is a modest number compared to other countries affected by the pandemic, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews warned of the possibility of a rapid growth of cases and the uncontrolled spread of the virus.
Many of the new cases detected are local transmissions and authorities have been unable to trace the source of some of them, which has accelerated their decision to re-impose the lockdown.
The premier, who said that 1 million tests to detect COVID-19 had been carried out in the state to date, added that with the lockdown, “we’ll be able to repair the damage to the economy that this virus is doing and, along the way, we’ll be able to support those who need that support, whether it be businesses, families, individuals, or indeed communities.”
Australia, which has allocated more than 13 percent of its GDP towards pandemic relief and financial stimulus funds, is ranked third best for its handling of the novel coronavirus epidemic, behind South Korea and Latvia, according to a recent United Nations Global Sustainable Development Report. EFE-EPA