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World News

Virus cases falling in Australia's hotspot state, restrictions may ease further

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s coronavirus hotspot state of Victoria looks set to lift some tough lockdown restrictions in coming days, after reporting only 14 new cases and eight deaths in the last 24 hours on Friday, further reducing the rate of infections.

FILE PHOTO: Walkers wear protective face masks at St Kilda pier in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing in public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

The two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne has dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to ease curbs.

“We are well and truly within the band in order to take those next steps,” said Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews, without providing detail on what those next steps would be.

Andrews has said he will announce further easing of restrictions on Sunday.

Australia’s strict lockdown measures, social distancing rules and high levels of contract tracing have resulted in the country avoiding a major second wave of coronavirus, unlike much of Europe and the United Kingdom.

The country has logged just 869 coronavirus deaths and nearly 27,000 cases, of which only around 650 remain active.

While the Victorian capital Melbourne remains in lockdown, other states and territories have either no cases or very few local transmissions, resulting in state borders reopening.

Borders reopened between Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory on Friday, after months without any infections in the national capital Canberra, while Queensland has not had any fresh cases for four days.

Borders between Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales, and the state of South Australia reopened earlier this week.

Western Australia, which has had zero or low single digit daily virus infections for months, has said it will keep its borders closed until eastern states get coronavirus under control.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Michael Perry

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