Australian state Victoria records 30 new coronavirus cases as testing ramps up

The outbreak in Victoria has now had 10 consecutive days of double-digit increases. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AFP) - Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria has recorded 30 new coronavirus cases as the authorities seek to avert a second wave of infections.

The state is ramping up testing, with 20,000 carried out in the past 24 hours across hot spots in Melbourne's northern and eastern suburbs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday (June 26) that Australia will stick with plans to further ease coronavirus curbs, despite the spike in infections in Victoria.

"There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks," Morrison told a media briefing in Canberra, the capital.

Around 200 soldiers were deploying to Melbourne over the weekend to help with the testing offensive in 10 suburb hot spots, where officials are going door-to-door to track the virus.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has set a goal of testing 100,000 people in 10 days in the targeted suburbs.

Mr Morrison's chief health adviser played down the likelihood that the Melbourne outbreak would evolve into a broader "second wave" of the epidemic.

"We're very likely to see more such outbreaks, not just in Victoria - it could be anywhere in the country," said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.

"We're prepared, we're responding and we're very, very comfortable with the way things are going."

But the outbreak in Victoria, which has now had 10 consecutive days of double-digit increases, has caused neighbouring New South Wales to warn travellers from the state to stay away.

That will likely be a further blow to domestic tourism, with much of the nation about to start mid-winter school holidays.

The Northern Territory on Friday (June 26) recommitted to opening its borders on July 17. Still, arrivals will need to sign a statutory declaration that they haven't visited a local government area designated by health authorities as a virus hot spot, with penalties for misleading statements leading to fines or imprisonment.

Of the new cases in Victoria, seven are linked to known outbreaks, five have been detected in hotel quarantine, five have been detected through routine testing, and 13 are under investigation.

The outbreak has rattled people across Australia, with major supermarket chains on Friday re-imposing nationwide limits on purchases of toilet paper and paper towels to counter a surge in panic-buying not seen since the first days of the pandemic in March.

"Stop it, it's ridiculous," Mr Morrison said when quizzed about the public rush on stores.

The chains slapped the buying restrictions on stores in Victoria earlier this week, but extended them after noting excessive demand spreading to other states.

"While the demand is not at the same level as Victoria, we're taking preventative action now to get ahead of any excessive buying this weekend and help maintain social distancing in our stores," Woolworths Supermarkets said in a statement.

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