SYDNEY - Increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19 have forced the Australian state of Victoria to bring back tougher restrictions beginning Monday. New infections over the past two days have been at their highest for two months. A state of emergency has also been extended.
Most of Victoria’s new coronavirus cases are linked to clusters, often within extended families. Other larger groups of infections have been detected at two hotels in the city of Melbourne. Community transmission of the virus, rather than those infections acquired overseas by citizens who then returned home, is of great concern to health officials.
They are advising Australians to stay away from six COVID-19 hotspots in the Victorian state capital, while residents are being urged to remain at home. Authorities want to set up so-called ‘rings of containment’ around localized outbreaks.
In neighboring New South Wales, officials are recommending citizens reconsider travel to Melbourne.
Various lockdown measures have gradually been eased across Australia in recent weeks, but officials in Victoria are blaming complacency for a spike in cases. Limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings have now been reintroduced.
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews says the community still needs to be vigilant.
“It is unacceptable that families anywhere in our state can just because they want this to be over pretend that it is. It is not over," he said. "We have even had people who have tested positive and have been told to go home and isolate, and instead they have gone to work.”
Police officers are to step up their enforcement of the restrictions on group gatherings, particularly in Melbourne. Checks will also increase on people who have been told to self-isolate because they had tested positive for the disease or were a close contact of someone who had.
A positive test also prompted the cancellation of an Australian Rules Football match in Melbourne following the recent resumption of games.
Australia has recorded just over 7,400 coronavirus cases. Most patients have recovered, but 102 people have died.
The country’s international borders were closed to foreign nationals in March. Widespread testing and contact tracing have helped Australia mostly contain the virus, but strict lockdown measures have inflicted great damage to the economy.