SYDNEY - The locked down Australian city of Melbourne is facing even tougher restrictions as a surge in coronavirus cases continues. Residents were placed back into lockdown earlier this month and the authorities warn the pandemic is far from over. Australia has recorded more than 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections. 116 people have died.
The new outbreak in Melbourne - a city of five million people - has derailed Australia's earlier success in tackling the virus. Hundreds of infections are being reported each day. There were 428 Friday - a daily record since the pandemic began - and 217 Saturday. Most cases have been detected within areas under lockdown, including clusters at schools and care homes for the aged.
Victoria state’s chief health officer is Professor Brett Sutton.
“Tragically, there will be several who will require intensive care support and a number of people will die" said Sutton. "It does reflect behaviors and mobility from ten or more days ago and so, of course, there is a hope that these numbers stabilize in the coming days.”
If that does not happen, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews says even tougher lock down measures could be brought in.
“If the data shows that the strategy is not being as effective as quickly as we would like then we may have to go new rules," said Andrews. "The rules are to protect you. The rules are to serve all of us.”
The new wave of infections is blamed on security breaches in the hotel quarantine system for travelers returning to Australia and large family gatherings where distancing and hygiene protocols were ignored.
Hundreds of cases have been detected at apartment blocks in the poorest parts of Melbourne, where some residents complain they have been treated like criminals.
As the crisis continues, travel between Victoria and other parts of Australia, is being heavily restricted and strict border controls put in place.
The next session of federal parliament is likely to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Lawmakers were scheduled to return to Canberra in August.