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Australian states see positive signs of pandemic control as Victoria further eases restrictions

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-09-28 15:58
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SYDNEY -- Australia has made more progress in the fight against COVID-19 as the worst-hit state of Victoria further eased some restrictions from Monday.

After nearly two months, a nightly curfew was lifted in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, outdoor social gatherings were increased to a maximum of five people and an additional 127,000 Victorians were allowed to return to work.

As the epicenter of Australia's second wave of infections, Victoria has successfully reduced its COVID-19 cases from over 700 cases per day in early August to just five new infections on Monday.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria was "so close" to defeating the second wave after the state recorded its lowest daily increase in more than three months.

"We are so close to being able to take a really big step, a big step towards that COVID-normal," he said.

"What's incredibly important, and I think every Victorian knows this ... is that everyone keeps following the rules, keeps doing the right thing."

Regional Victoria already witnessed an easing of restrictions in the middle of September while Metropolitan Melbourne has a specific reopening roadmap.

According to the roadmap, metro Melbourne is in the second step now and will get into the next step if the statewide daily average number of cases in the last 14 days is less than five and less than five cases with an unknown source in statewide total in the last 14 days. In the step three, there will be no restrictions on leaving home, and public gathering will be up to 10 people and more retails will open.

Andrews said the next reopening steps would be guided by public health advice and case numbers, instead of certain dates on the calendar.

"Based on the current projections, (this) means we'll be in a position to consider our next Step by mid-October," he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt also welcomed the moves in Victoria and said more should be done to accelerate the process.

"Easing restrictions in Victoria in a COVID-safe way is vitally important so that more Victorians can get back to work and resume their normal lives," they said in a joint statement on Sunday.

"It will be important that more be done in the weeks ahead to safely ease more restrictions."

Apart from Victoria, the state of New South Wales (NSW) is also making progress in fighting COVID-19.

NSW recorded zero COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row, the state's health department said in a statement on Monday. However, the NSW health department asked people to remain vigilant as school holidays approach.

"NSW Health thanks the community for all they have done towards reducing COVID-19 numbers and continues to ask people to remain vigilant and come forward for testing immediately if symptoms like a runny nose, scratchy throat, cough or fever appear," it said.

"This is particularly important with the start of school holidays and increased movement of people around the state."

Meanwhile, the state of Western Australia (WA) is waiting for test results for crew members on a bulk carrier anchored off the state's North West coast.

So far, a total of nine crew from Patricia Oldendorff have tested positive, including seven people still on board.

"Test results for the remaining Patricia Oldendorff crew are still being processed. When the results are known, they will be reported," WA health department said on Monday.

The ship, with 20 Filipino crew on board, anchored off Port Hedland on Sept. 16.

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