Australia's Victoria state reports 374 new cases of coronavirus and three deaths

Victoria's government has enforced a six-week partial lockdown in the city of Melbourne. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Australia's second most populous state of Victoria reported on Tuesday (July 21) three deaths from the new coronavirus and logged 374 daily cases of infections compared with 275 cases a day earlier.

A woman in her 100s, a woman in her 90s and a woman in her 80s have all died from the virus, Premier Daniel Andrews said in a media briefing in Melbourne.

The state so far has recorded just under 6,300 total confirmed cases of Covid-19, which is nearly half of the total infections in Australia.

Victoria's government has enforced a six-week partial lockdown in the city of Melbourne and asked residents to wear face masks when they step outside their houses or risk fines to contain a flare-up in infections.

Neighbouring South Australia state will further tighten its border to guard against renewed outbreaks of the coronavirus by introducing a maximum two-year jail term for people who breach the rules.

Emergency legislation will be amended on Tuesday to introduce the new penalty, the state government said in a statement.

The state border is closed to residents of Victoria. Travelers from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have to self-quarantine for 14 days and submit for virus testing.

Separately, federal government will continue subsidising the wages of workers from businesses damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will say on Tuesday, but Canberra will trim the size of payments and tighten the eligibility rules.

Continued fiscal support will ease fears that Australia will suffer a hard economic landing in September when the government's centrepiece policy expires, a fortnightly payment of A$1,500 (S$1,459) to workers of businesses damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Known as JobKeeper, Australia is on course to spend A$70 billion to subsidise the wages of about 3.5 million people - a scheme that is widely credited with propping up Australia's ailing economy. But with most states and territories beginning to reopen their economies, Frydenberg will say Australia can now reduce fiscal support.

"JobKeeper has been an economic lifeline to millions of Australians and that lifeline will be extended for those businesses that need it most," Frydenberg will say, according to extracts of an announcement sent to Reuters.

The extracts sent do not reveal the size of the payments, adding only that it will be paid at a "lower level than is currently the case", while eligibility will also be amended to ensure only those who need it the most receive it.

In addition to trimming its JobKeeper package, Frydenberg will on Tuesday also say Australia will cut its unemployment payments.

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