Australia's Victoria state posts lowest COVID-19 case rise in two months

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state on Saturday reported its lowest rise in new coronavirus cases in almost two months, but authorities warned there would be no rush to lift social distancing restrictions.

The Victorian state capital of Melbourne is four weeks into a six-week hard lockdown that was spurred by a second wave of infections in Australia’s second largest city.

State officials on Saturday reported 94 new COVID-19 infections and 18 deaths. It was the first time new daily case numbers have fallen below 100 in eight weeks, and continues a steady trajectory downward this week.

“Every day we see the strategy working is a good day but we just need a bit more time to be able to be confident that we are, in fact, defeating this and that we can open up, gradually, steadily, safely,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said at a televised news briefing.

The hard lockdown has restricted most people in the city to one hour of outdoor activity per day. Even if the current measures are eased at the end of the six weeks, some restrictions are expected to remain.

In bordering New South Wales state, concerns were rising about a resurgence in cases after a cluster of more than a dozen people was identified at one of Sydney’s oldest clubs.

Australia has recorded a total of around 25,500 cases and 601 deaths so far in the pandemic.

Neighbouring New Zealand, which has also seen a second wave of infections after three months of respite, reported 11 new community transmission cases on Saturday and two new infections in managed quarantine.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce on Sunday whether a short-term lockdown imposed in Auckland, the hotspot of the outbreak, will be lifted. Earlier this week, Ardern made masks mandatory on public transport across the nation.

New Zealand has reported a total of around 1,400 cases, including 22 deaths.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in headline).

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