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Lockdown Extended as Australia’s Second-Biggest City Battles Second COVID-19 Wave

Police patrol a street in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 6, 2020, as the state announced an extension to its strict lockdown law while it battles fresh outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

A strict coronavirus lockdown in the Australian city of Melbourne is being extended by two weeks. The Victoria state capital has been at the center of a second wave of infections. Authorities have said the restrictions will be eased in the months ahead if rates of new infections continue to fall.

Melbourne is living through Australia’s toughest coronavirus lockdown. It was reimposed in July and is being extended because the number of new COVID-19 cases has not dropped enough. The lockdown will stay in place until the end of the month.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews warned that without these strict measures the state risks a “third wave” of infections.

He said a cautious approach is the only way forward.

“We cannot run out of lockdown,” he said. “We have to take steady and safe steps to find that COVID-normal and make sure that in opening up, we can stay open.”

There will be some minor easing of regulations in Melbourne, a city of 5 million.

A nighttime curfew will start an hour later, playgrounds will reopen, and more outdoor exercise will be allowed. Bigger changes will only come in the months ahead if the number of new daily COVID-19 cases continues to fall. Officials say if they drop to below five by October 26, the curfew would be ended.

Outside Melbourne, the rest of Victoria state will have restrictions eased slightly more quickly.

Dozens of people were arrested Saturday at anti-lockdown protests in Australia’s major cities. The demonstrations were driven largely by fringe groups promoting virus-related conspiracy theories.

Their actions have been described by the authorities as “selfish.” The Victoria government says obeying the restrictions is "the only option" to ultimately bringing the lockdown to an end.

Victoria is at the center of Australia’s coronavirus crisis, accounting for three-quarters of total infections and 90% of all fatalities.

The pandemic, and the closure of many businesses during lockdowns across the country, has sent the Australian economy into recession for the first time since 1991. Unemployment is rising, and the authorities are warning that the recovery could take years.

Australia has recorded about 26,000 COVID-19 cases, and more than 750 deaths.