MELBOURNE • Australia's Victoria state recorded its second-highest day of new Covid-19 infections yesterday as its Premier rebuked residents for evading lockdown and flagged the prospect of more rigorous steps to contain the disease.
Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is under a reimposed six-week stay-home order, reported 627 new infections yesterday, down from a record 723 the previous day.
The state recorded eight more deaths linked to Covid-19, including two men in their 50s - from a record 14 the day before.
The state, which for months prided itself on a tough approach to social distancing measures, now accounts for more than half of Australia's 198 deaths from the virus and about 60 per cent of the country's 16,900 cases.
Most of Victoria's new cases are in Melbourne, Australia's second-biggest city.
"It is clear to all of us that these numbers are still far too high," Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference. "It may well be the case... that we need to take further steps. The data will tell us, the experts will tell us, what and if any next steps need to be."
Defence and health officials are knocking on the doors of every positive Covid-19 case in the state, but have found one in four people not at home. Those people have been referred to the police and may face a A$1,652 (S$1,629) fine.
Victoria is due to end lockdown on Aug 19 and is analysing how the virus is being transmitted in the community, which will guide any new restrictions, he added.
With Melbourne entering a fourth week of lockdown, many on the streets said they were saddened and anxious.
"People are starting to feel depressed because you can't leave the house," Melbourne resident Stefan Paskoski said. "All you do is go to work, come home if you're working. If you're unemployed, you rely on government social security."
Mr Andrews said the city of five million and the surrounding areas would be stuck in "limbo" unless it could cut infection rates.
Defence and health officials are knocking on the doors of every positive Covid-19 case in the state, but have found one in four people not at home.
Those people have been referred to the police and may face a A$1,652 (S$1,629) fine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the spike in cases in Melbourne remained a challenge, but he was confident a flare-up in larger Sydney was under control.
"The level of community outbreak and community transmission in Victoria is the great challenge down there," he said.
"And there's still a lot of work to do and we're not on top of it yet."
New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, had contained the virus mainly because of better contact tracing than in neighbouring Victoria, he added.
New South Wales recorded just 21 new cases.
A ban on people travelling from Sydney to northern Queensland state was set to begin at 1am today local time, and images of traffic lines at the border began circulating on social media late yesterday.
"There will be delays at the border, so think about your travel plans and think about where you need to go and think about the timing of those journeys," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE