© Reuters. Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia had its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, with 14 deaths and more than 700 new infections, mainly in the state of Victoria, where the government ordered all residents to wear face covers outside.
The country's death toll rises from the novel corona virus to 190, more than half of which occurred in Victoria, the second largest state and its capital city, Melbourne, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australia was proud to curb the first COVID-19 outbreak quickly, but a second wave that started in Victoria last month has forced Melbourne to block again and triggered outbreaks in other areas, including Sydney.
"We have been in this lock (in Melbourne) for a few weeks now and are not getting the results we would hope for. As a result, the further action that will be taken is certainly necessary," Morrison told reporters, supporting the restrictions from the Victorian government announced.
"The virus wins on some days, we beat it on other days. But I think we have to be careful not to imagine that Australia has a golden immunity to the virus."
Further restrictions on movement would strike a blow to the economy, which has been in its first recession for 30 years, but failure to control recent outbreaks would do more economic damage in the long run, Morrison added.
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said that anyone in the state with more than 6 million residents will be required to wear a mask from Sunday when they are outside, which will expand the requirements that already exist in Melbourne.
He also expanded the social distance restrictions, as residents of communities southwest of Melbourne were no longer allowed to have visitors in their homes as of late Thursday.
However, cafes, pubs and restaurants can remain open as they are controlled environments in which rules for social distance can be enforced.
"Bringing friends to your home is not a controlled environment," said Andrews.
The current daily record of new infections in Australia was 518 on Monday. The country has confirmed a total of 16,298 cases since the pandemic started.
Andrews said that most of them were located in well-known hotspots such as nursing homes and the number of incomprehensible infections was "much less".
Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported 18 new cases, six from unknown sources.
The northeastern state of Queensland, which had effectively eliminated the virus, said it had found three new cases, two of which were thought to have COVID-19 in the NSW capital Sydney. Queensland closed its borders to people from Sydney on Wednesday.
Queensland police say two 19-year-old women who brought the virus back from a trip to Victoria to the state after returning from the country falsified travel documents and lied to the authorities about their movements.
Both were now being prosecuted, but one continued to refuse to tell officials where she had been, amid a spike in cases south of Brisbane where the couple resided.
"They have made extraordinary efforts to deceive, deceive, and honestly be criminal about their behavior, and that has put the community at risk," Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters.
Queensland denied entry earlier this month to anyone who has been to Victoria for the past 14 days.