Australia's Victoria reports no coronavirus cases, set to ease curbs

Thursday, 18 Feb, 2021

The five-day stay-at-home order now appears to have contained the outbreak, which centred on a hotel near Melbourne airport, to 19 people.

Both countries, known for their strict measures, have seen relatively few deaths and cases during the pandemic.

This comes as the state recorded zero new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, after nearly 40,000 test results were recorded Tuesday.

No additional locally acquired cases were found on Wednesday.

The statewide lockdown was called on Friday afternoon amid fears the highly-infectious United Kingdom strain of the virus would spread within the community after escaping the quarantine hotel.

"There was simply no alternative but to follow the advice provided", he said.

"Because of the efforts of every Victorian - the sacrifices and the hard slog - we can be confident that slowly, and surely, we are driving the virus into the ground", he said.

After lengthy discussions between Tennis Australia and the state government, it was agreed that 7,477 fans - approximately 50% of Rod Laver Arena's capacity - would be able to attend each session, beginning Thursday morning. But some curbs remain including a limit on visitors to homes and mandatory mask-wearing in packed indoor spaces.

Residents of the state, more than a quarter of Australia's 25 million population, were ordered to stay home except for work, buying groceries, outdoor exercise and care-giving.

Western Australia said Victoria would transition to "low risk" from midnight Friday - but travellers will still need to be tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 14 days on arrival. Snap restrictions were ordered last Friday after a small outbreak of the more infectious United Kingdom coronavirus variant prompted fears Australia's successful battle to contain the pandemic could be undone.

But some experts - including the Australian Medical Association - have been calling for a review of hotel quarantine environments due to concerns about airborne transmission.

The premier confirmed the government is looking at constructing purpose-built quarantine accommodation, based on the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory.

"There is pain and difficulty in we've acknowledged that we will make announcements in good time about the people who are doing it tough, but the urgent nature and the rapid nature of these decisions speaks to the rapid infectivity of this virus and nothing more that".

Public gatherings are limited to 20 people.