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Australian officials on Sunday extended the country's second largest city's strict virus lockdown by two weeks, saying new cases had not fallen enough to prevent another surge.
Melbourne residents should end a tough six-week lockdown this coming weekend, but face further restrictions in the months ahead. Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said the current lockdown would last through September 28.
"If we open up too quickly, there is a very high probability that we won't really open up at all – we are just starting a third wave," he said at a press conference.
"And we'll get back on and off the restrictions and get out of lockdown before the end of the year."
Only 63 new cases and five deaths were recorded in Victoria on Sunday after peaking over 700 at the height of the outbreak. However, the health authorities are proceeding cautiously.
Hopes of a return to normal this month have been dashed, with an overnight curfew, restrictions on visitors to homes and a restriction on travel of more than three miles to remain in place until at least October 26th.
Announcing the roadmap to easing restrictions, Andrews said the rush to see a "brief solar period" would likely cause the virus to spiral out of control again.
The strictest rules will be relaxed in Melbourne from September 13th. An hour later, at 9:00 pm, an overnight curfew begins, daily exercise is increased to two hours, and small "social bubbles" appear for people living alone.
According to the government's plan, daycare centers will reopen and up to five people can congregate outdoors by the end of September – but only if the cases fall below an average of 50 per day.
The rules for people living in regional and rural Victoria are being relaxed more quickly due to the low number of active cases in these areas.
The announcement comes a day after more than a dozen anti-lockdown protesters were arrested in clashes with police in Melbourne.
Hundreds attended the illegal gathering, organized online by conspiracy theorists, describing the government's response to the pandemic or outright "fraud".
Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus. The country recorded just over 26,000 cases and 753 deaths out of a population of 25 million.
The vast majority have been reported in Melbourne in the past two months, while other regions have lifted restrictions after largely getting the virus under control.
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© 2020 AFP
Australia Extends Melbourne Lockdown Despite Falling Cases (2020-09-06)
accessed on September 6, 2020
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