SYDNEY - The Australian state of Victoria has recorded no new coronavirus cases or deaths for 28 consecutive days. Health authorities say they have achieved what is widely considered to be the official benchmark for eliminating COVID-19 from the community.
The last coronavirus patient in Victoria was discharged from a hospital Monday. There have been no reported cases or fatalities in Australia’s second-most populous state for a month.
Infections, though, have been detected in other parts of the country. There are concerns the virus could escape into the community from quarantine hotels for citizens returning from overseas. They face a mandatory 14 days in guarded isolation on their return home, but breaches in security were blamed for a deadly second wave of infections in Victoria.
But the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said Australia’s success in containing COVID-19 has been widely praised.
“The outside world is not a safe place,” he said. “We see that the outside world beyond Australia’s borders has enormous numbers of cases and so we will, as a world, have to manage COVID-19 at least through 2021 and potentially beyond and that has implications for Australia. At the same time, Australia has done incredibly well. We have still had heartache; we have still had tragedy. But the world looks at Australia and overwhelmingly says, ‘We wish we were Australia.’”
Authorities say there have been four critical parts to Australia’s coronavirus battle plan: closing its borders to foreign travelers back in March, mass testing, sophisticated contact tracing and strict lockdowns.
There have also been high levels of compliance by Australians to social distancing and hygiene protocols.
A second wave of infections prompted state authorities in Victoria to bring in some of the world’s toughest lockdown restrictions in July, which have been relaxed in recent weeks.
Australia has recorded almost 28,000 coronavirus cases and 907 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.