Health officials say there is more evidence that Australia's efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak are working. While they are hopeful Australia can avoid the kind of devastation the coronavirus has caused in countries like Italy and the United States, they caution there is no room for complacency. There are more than 5,600 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia. Thirty-four mostly elderly people have died.
Health officials are cautiously hopeful that Australia is “flattening the curve” of COVID-19 infections. The rate of new cases fell to three per cent over the weekend.
Almost 300,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out. Strict social distancing measures are also in place. Australians are not allowed to leave their homes without good reason or gather in groups of more than two, although households are exempt.
Fines are being issued by the police for those who flout the regulations.
Cafes, bars, cinemas and many beaches have been closed in an attempt to slow the spread of the highly infectious disease. Australia has closed its international borders, and some states, including Western Australia and Tasmania, have shut themselves off from the rest of the country.
Community transmission of COVID-19 remains the authorities’ biggest concern.
But Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy believes the overall signs are good.
“Many of you are watching the situation thats happening in New York for example and other parts of the world with a lot of fear. We have been very keen to bring in the measures that we brought in in recent weeks to prevent that happening, and we are increasingly confident that if people continue to adhere to what we have been asking them to do, we can prevent a situation like we have seen in many other countries of the world,” he said.
Australian police are also launching a criminal investigation into whether the operator of a cruise liner downplayed potential Covid-19 cases before thousands of passengers disembarked in Sydney last month.
The Ruby Princess is responsible for more than a tenth of Australia’s confirmed coronavirus cases. At least 11 passengers have died. The vessel is moored south of Sydney. Almost 200 crew members who remain onboard have Covid-19 symptoms.
The ship’s owner, Carnival Australia, said it would cooperate with the police inquiry.
Five other cruise liners were forced to leave and head home by Australian authorities at the weekend.