State of disaster declared in Victoria amid rising COVID-19 cases

Sydney, Australia, Aug 2 (efe-epa).- Victoria’s government declared a state of disaster and put Melbourne under harder restrictions on Sunday after reporting 671 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths in the state overnight.

The state of disaster, which has only been used once before during last year’s devastating bushfires, will give authorities additional powers, including to arrest and fine people breaking rules, and was to enter into force from 6pm. It is in addition to the state of emergency already in effect, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference.

He said the current restrictions were not “working fast enough.”

“This is a public health bushfire. But you can’t smell the smoke and you can’t see the flames,” Andrews said, calling COVID-19 a “wicked enemy.”

“It spreads so fast, without people even knowing.”

The new six-week stage-4 restrictions announced for metropolitan Melbourne include an 8pm to 5am curfew and forbids residents from leaving home except for work and caretaker exemptions. One person from each household is allowed to shop or exercise once per day within a 5 kilometer radius only.

Regional Victoria, including rural Mitchell Shire, which has also been under tight lockdown, at midnight Wednesday will be under stage-3 restrictions.

New workplace rules will be announced on Monday, while students across the state will return to remote learning from Wednesday.

The premier said there were 760 “mystery” cases of community transmission, where the infection source cannot be traced.

The state now has 6,322 active cases, with 385 in hospital and 38 in intensive care.

The total death toll in Victoria is now 123, and of the seven new fatalities announced Sunday, six of those were in connection to aged care.

Cases in Victoria account for around 60 percent of the nearly 18,000 COVID-19 cases detected across the country since the start of the pandemic, including more than 200 deaths.

In the neighboring state of New South Wales, which has closed its border with Victoria, 12 new cases were also confirmed on Sunday.

Since July, the country, which successfully managed the first wave of infections, has faced an increase in cases related to people entering from overseas and a series of failures in quarantine hotels. EFE-EPA


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