Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, moved closer to easing tight lockdown restrictions after registering just 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
It was the second day in a row that new infections fell below 30, after 21 were reported on Saturday, the lowest daily number since June 19. There were also five deaths recorded on Sunday.
Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions are expected to be relaxed next weekend when daycares are allowed to reopen and gatherings of up to five people from two different households will be allowed. But that depends on whether the 14-day moving average of new cases is below 50.
With the lower numbers this weekend, the moving average is now 36.2.
Victoria State Minister of Health Jenny Mikakos praised residents for adhering to the lockdown rules.
“The enormous sacrifices made by the Victorians save many lives,” Mikakos said. “New cases continue to decline because of your efforts.
“Thanks to all the Victorians. You are incredible. We can do it, ”she said.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described an unexpected drop in Australia’s unemployment rate to 9.3% – down 14 percentage points from its peak during the pandemic – as “a pleasant encouragement”.
Figures show that around 400,000 Australians have recently returned to work.
“We have just over half of the way back,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Those who have been reduced to zero hours are starting to recoup their hours. There is still a long way to go.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
– Japan’s train stations and airports are packed with people traveling over the ‘Silver Week’ holiday weekend, a sign of recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic. The increase in domestic travel contrasts with previous vacations, when there was great pressure for people living in congested urban areas to stay at home and avoid areas with fewer infections. New daily cases in Tokyo recently fluctuated around 200, but Japan does not have widespread testing and many cases are likely to go undetected. Baseball games, shops and theaters are back on track with social distancing, the wearing of masks, hand sanitizers and temperature controls. A study by mobile operator NTT DoCoMo showed the size of the crowd at a domestic terminal at Tokyo’s main Haneda airport, as well as at train stations and shopping districts across the country. Japan, with around 1,500 COVID-19-related deaths, has banned nearly all foreign visitors and demands quarantine and virus checks for returning Japanese. Silver Week includes this weekend and two national holidays, Respect for the Elderly Day and the Autumn Equinox.
– The number of novel coronaviruses in South Korea fell below 100 for the first time in more than a month. Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Sunday that the 82 new cases brought the country’s total to 22,975 with 383 deaths. The drop is likely due in part to authorities running fewer tests on weekends. But even before Sunday, South Korea’s daily tally remained in the 100 for more than two weeks, down from 400 at the end of August. Health officials say the downward trend is the result of strict social distancing rules imposed on the densely populated metropolitan area of Seoul. These rules have recently been relaxed. The government is urging the public not to let their guard down as small-scale clusters are still reported.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak