Australia Records No New COVID-19 Cases for First Time in Five Months

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -
A sign points toward the entrance of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) drive-through testing facility in Melbourne, Australia, August 18. (AAP Image/James Ross via Reuters)

Australia recorded no new daily coronavirus community infections on Sunday for the first time in nearly five months, health officials said, paving the way for further easing of social distancing restrictions.

The State of Victoria, a coronavirus hot spot which accounts for more than 90% of Australia‘s 907 coronavirus-related deaths, saw zero new daily infections and no deaths for the second consecutive day.

With no fresh cases of COVID-19 recorded in the rest of the country, Australia saw its first day of no transmissions since June 9, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“Thank you to all of our amazing health & public health workers & above all else the Australian people,” Hunt said on his Twitter account.

Swift and stringent measures combined with community compliance have been credited for reigning in the pandemic before it strained the public health system in Australia.

Queensland voters kept on Saturday the incumbent Labor Party for a third term, showing support for keeping the state’s internal borders closed – which has put the local authorities at odds with the federal government.

Victoria last week ended most of its 111-day lockdown restrictions – some of the world’s toughest and longest – with a recent Ipsos poll commissioned by The Age newspaper and Nine News showing that Victorians backed the state’s handling of the pandemic.

Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton hinted on Sunday that the state may see more of its public movement restrictions eased in the coming days but urged further compliance.

“What allowances come … will absolutely be informed by what this week looks like,” Sutton said at a televised press conference.

“To see 50,000 cases a day in France, to see Belgium sending patients outside the country because they’re so overwhelmed – that’s what we might have faced if we hadn’t been able to get on top of it.”

Australia has reported just over 27,500 cases since the pandemic started due to it quickly closing its international borders and imposing social distancing restrictions and widespread testing and tracing.

Australia on Friday warned its citizens not to travel to the United States, its key ally, due to the risk of protest violence and coronavirus.