Australia’s Victoria reported a record 15 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, which was already preparing to close much of its economy to control a second wave of infection that threatens to spread across the country.
The second-most populous state in Australia reported a record rise of 725 new COVID-19 cases despite having reimposed a lockdown on Melbourne, the state capital with a population of 5 million people, four weeks ago.
New South Wales and Queensland states introduced new measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, which has claimed 247 lives across the country.
In Victoria, the state government imposed a night curfew and tightened restrictions on people’s movements across greater Melbourne on Sunday, and ordered most businesses to stop trading from Wednesday night in a massive blow to the national economy.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday further restrictions would include shutting most child-care centres and expanding a ban on elective surgery to the whole state to free up medical resources for coronavirus cases.
“The notion of more than 700 cases is not sustainable. We need to drive the numbers down and this strategy is designed to do just that,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd urged Victorians to comply with the state’s tight restrictions.
“I hope it won’t be the case, but it may be, that the numbers will go even higher over the coming days before they start to come down as a result of the impact of the restrictions,” Kidd told reporters in Canberra.
The tighter lockdown will delay an independent inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine programme. Hearings which were due to begin on Thursday will start on Aug. 17, with the final report now due on Nov. 6.
State health officials believe the mingling of security guards with infected travelers in hotel quarantine was the main source of the resurgence of the virus in Melbourne over the past two months.
Victoria accounts for about a quarter of the nation’s economy and has nearly two-thirds of Australia’s almost 19,500 COVID-19 cases.