SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian state of Victoria reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Monday as people in Melbourne were given more freedom to move after a months-long blockade, hoping an explosion in the city was nearing its end.
The number of cases increased from just two on Sunday, but lasted a daily increase with a figure to almost a week and is far from a peak of more than 700 cases in a single day in early August.
After more than 100 days in a strict block that allowed only two hours of outdoor activity a day, the 5 million people living in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, will be able to spend that much time exercising outdoors as much as they want.
However, people must stay within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of their homes, public gatherings will remain restricted, and retailers and restaurants must only operate on pick-up or drop-off orders.
State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews set November 1 as the date for the next phase of lifting the restrictions, but said some could be eased earlier if cases remained low and had a known source.
But the timetable has disappointed Prime Minister Scott Morrisons federal government, which is pushing Melbourne to reopen in order to revive Australia’s sick economy.
Clearly, having a huge cost to the Victorian economy and indeed, the national economy, Josh Frydenberg told Sky News on Monday.
Australia’s economy shrank by 7% in the three months to the end of June, the biggest quarterly contraction since the census began in 1959. The unemployment rate reached a 22-year high of 7.5% in July as businesses and margins plummeted. shut down to deal with the coronavirus.
Australia has registered just over 27,300 COVID-19 infections, according to the Ministry of Health, far fewer than many other developed countries. Victoria accounts for more than 90% of the 905 deaths nationwide.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Jane Wardell
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