Australia’s Victoria state reported just three new Covid-19 cases yesterday, its lowest single-day rise in more than a week, a day after a snap lockdown in the state capital of Melbourne was extended for another week.
Australia’s second most populous state has endured four lockdowns since the pandemic begun, the longest running for more than 100 days late last year.
Under mounting pressure and with an election likely within a year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced a plan to pay up to A$500 ($387) a week to people in lockdown.
Morrison said the payments would be given to people over the age of 17 who cannot work from home and who have less than A$10,000 in liquid assets.
Australia introduced a wage subsidy scheme at the beginning of the pandemic but it ended in March and the government resisted calls for a temporary reintroduction of the measure.
Snap lockdowns, international and regional border curbs and tough social distancing rules have largely helped Australia keep its Covid figures relatively low, at 30,130 cases and 910 deaths.
But Morrison is being criticised for a slow vaccine rollout and his refusal to help state governments build Covid quarantine centres, instead of relying on hotel quarantine where some lax security has let the virus spread.
Melbourne’s latest outbreak has been traced to a traveller, returned from overseas, who left hotel quarantine in the state of south Australia after testing negative but later tested positive in Melbourne.
Melbourne is now seven days into a hard lockdown, scheduled to run until June 10, with authorities saying the highly contagious variant of the virus, first detected in India, could spread out of control.
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