Fewer cases in Melbourne, new surge in India

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has moved close to easing severe lockdown restrictions after recording only 14 new COVID-19 cases yesterday.

It was the second day in a row new infections fell below 30, after 21 were reported on Saturday, the lowest daily number since June 19. There were also five deaths recorded yesterday.

Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions are due to be eased next weekend when childcare centres will be allowed to reopen and gatherings of up to five people from two different households will be permitted. But that depends on the rolling 14-day average of new cases being below 50.

With the lower numbers this weekend, the rolling average is now 36.2. Victoria state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos praised residents for adhering to lockdown rules.

“The huge sacrifices made by Victorians are saving many lives,” Mikakos said. “The new cases keep trending down with your efforts.

“Thank you to all Victorians. You are amazing. We can do this,” she said.

A woman reacts as a health worker takes a swab sample to test for COVID-19 in Ahmedabad, India. PHOTO: AP

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described an unexpected fall in Australia’s unemployment rate to 9.3 per cent – down 14 percentage points from its peak during the pandemic – as “pleasant encouragement.”

The figures show about 400,000 Australians recently have returned to work.

“We just over half of the way back,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Those who had been reduced to zero hours are starting to get their hours back. There’s still a long way to go.”

India has registered 92,605 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and is expected to surpass the United States as the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks. The Health Ministry yesterday also reported 1,133 additional deaths for a total of 86,752.

Yesterday’s surge raised the country’s virus tally to over 5.4 million. India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Its recovery rate stands at about 80 per cent.

Over 60 per cent of the active cases are concentrated in five of India’s 28 states – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy that left millions jobless.