Australia coronavirus cases ‘set to be lowest in months’

A healthcare working in protective gear works at a COVID-19 testing facility in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 18 September 2020

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Australia looks set to record its lowest daily coronavirus increase for three months, with just 18 new cases reported so far.

The state of Victoria – the epicentre of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak – recorded 14 new infections to Sunday morning, down from 21 the day before.

New South Wales and Queensland reported two cases each. The remaining states are yet to report their figures, but rarely record any new cases.

Figures were last this low on 23 June.

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Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said the numbers were “cause for great optimism”. His state, which has accounted for 75% of Australia’s 26,900 cases and 90% of its 849 deaths, has been under lockdown since early July.

Melbourne, the capital, has been under tighter restrictions than other areas, including a curfew and stay-at-home orders. Anti-lockdown protests in the city have become a regular sight.

On Sunday, demonstrators gathered in the central business district, according to local media. Saturday’s protest, in a park, saw protesters being dispersed by police on horseback.

Police try to intercept protesters during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Australia, 19 September 2020

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However, Mr Andrews has defended the state’s strict lockdown, pointing to rising cases in Europe.

“It’s heartbreaking to see all of those communities have given – all the sacrifice they’ve made – and now they’ve got cases running perhaps more wildly than their first wave,” he told reporters.

“Some of these nations as well, I see a bit of commentary around the place about how… death rates in second waves are lower. That’s not what the data’s saying. That’s not what the data in Europe is saying. You’ve got to see it off.”

Melbourne has started to ease its restrictions, saying it will lift the curfew and exercise limits on 26 October if there are fewer than five new cases per day.

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