Australia to lock down 300,000 in Melbourne suburbs after coronavirus spike

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Authorities will block around 300,000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month starting late Wednesday to reduce the risk of infection after a two-week double-digit increase in new coronavirus cases in Australia's second largest state.

FILE PHOTO: Disinfectants are seen on a car while drivers fill out paperwork for the police during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bordertown, Australia, on March 24, 2020, as they return from Victoria to South Australia. REUTERS / Tracey Near mine

Australia has done better than many pandemic countries with around 7,830 cases and 104 deaths, but the recent surge has raised fears of a second wave of COVID-19 and expressed concerns in other countries.

Worldwide, coronavirus cases surpassed 10 million on Sunday, an important milestone in the spread of a disease that killed more than half a million people in seven months.

As of midnight, more than 30 suburbs in Australia's second largest city will return to the third stage restrictions, the third largest stage of the curb to fight the pandemic. This means that residents only shop at home, health appointments, work or care and exercise.

The restrictions are accompanied by a test flash that the authorities hope will extend to half the population of the affected area and for which the borders will be monitored, the authorities said. The measures come from the fact that the curbs in the rest of the state of Victoria are becoming lighter and restaurants, fitness studios and cinemas have been reopened in the past few weeks.

Victoria recorded 73 new cases out of 20,682 tests on Tuesday after increasing 75 cases on Monday. Prime Minister Daniel Andrews warned Wednesday that the return of more general restrictions across the city is still possible.

"If we all stick together over the next four weeks, we can regain control of this community broadcast … over the Melbourne metropolis," Andrews said at a briefing. "If I didn't shut down these zip codes, I would ultimately shut down all zip codes." We want to avoid that. "

Victoria’s surge in cases has been linked to employees in hotels that have accommodated returning travelers who have not strictly followed the quarantine protocols. The Victorian state authorities have announced an investigation into the matter.

Some other Australian states and territories are preparing to open borders, but apply restrictions and quarantine measures to Victoria citizens during school holidays.

South Australia, the country's fifth largest state, only had three new cases last month. The planned reopening for other parts of the nation was canceled on Tuesday, citing the rise in coronavirus infections.

New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state, has stopped closing its borders to all Victorians, but those who vacation from hotspot areas – not allowed under NSW rules – can be fined AUD 11,000 ( $ 7,596) will be found or detained if discovered, state officials said.

The delays in reopening internal borders raise doubts about a federal plan to create a "travel bubble" with neighboring New Zealand that would allow movement between the two countries.

(GRAPHICS: World-focused tracker with country-specific interaction – Here)

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Edited by Kenneth Maxwell

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