Australia’s COVID-19 crisis is intensifying, with a record 723 new infections reported in the state of Victoria in the past day. Thirteen people have died. Some internal borders in eastern Australia will again close in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
Wednesday was Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far. Victoria, the nation’s second-most-populous state, recorded more than 720 new infections and 13 deaths in the past 24 hours. These are new daily records.
“I am saddened to have to report that the total number of people who have died because of this global pandemic in Victoria is now 105,” said Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews. “That is 13 additional fatalities: three men and three women in their 70s, three men and two women in their 80s, and two men in their 90s. We send our condolences, our best wishes, our thoughts and prayers to those families. This will be incredibly challenging.”
Specialist teams usually sent to disaster zones overseas are starting work in Victoria’s aged care homes, where serious outbreaks have been reported. Australia’s federal health minister, Greg Hunt, has described the assistance teams as the special forces of the medical world. The military is also part of the contact tracing effort aimed at helping to ensure patients who test positive isolate themselves.
The Victorian state capital, Melbourne, was placed into a six-week lockdown for a second time earlier this month. Five million people are subject to stay-at-home orders. They can leave only for essential tasks, and masks are mandatory when they do so.
Residents from Sydney, which has several COVID-19 clusters, will soon be banned from travelling to Queensland.
“We declared yesterday Greater Sydney a hot spot, that will take effect from 1 a.m. Saturday,” said Queensland state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. “That is definitely the right decision that we have made to protect Queensland and Queenslanders’ health.”
Australia’s international borders were closed to foreign travelers in March and are likely to stay shut into next year. Australian citizens returning home face a mandatory 14 days in hotel quarantine.
Australia has had about 15,500 confirmed coronavirus infections. More than 175 people have died.