COVID-19 infections have hit a new record in the Australian state of Victoria. Authorities blame rule-breakers for the latest surge in cases.
More than 1,400 new daily locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were reported in Victoria Thursday. Five more people have died.
The numbers have soared despite some of Australia’s strictest stay-at-home orders. Melbourne, the Victorian state capital, has become the third-most locked-down city in the world according to the city’s mayor. Residents have endured more than 235 days of lockdown since the pandemic began. Household visits are banned.
Victorian authorities have said illegal gatherings and house parties over a public holiday long weekend the last weekend in September were behind the sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in the state. Officials also said many people had ignored lockdown directives to be with friends and family to watch the Australian Rules Football grand final on television, one of the country’s most popular sporting events.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said when rules are broken, infections increase.
“They go up faster, of course, if people do not follow the rules,” he said. “They go up faster if people are out visiting each other in their homes. That is not a sense of blame. If people continue to visit each other in their homes, they will bring the virus with them, they will spread the virus. Many of these cases were completely avoidable.”
A recently discovered delta variant cluster is causing concern in Queensland state, while 941 new infections and six deaths were reported Thursday in neighboring New South Wales.
Millions of Australians remain in lockdown in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and other parts of eastern Australia.
Despite a surge in cases, authorities are pressing ahead with plans to ease lockdowns as vaccination rates increase.
In New South Wales, lockdown restrictions will end for fully immunized residents when rates hit 70%. They currently stand at 64%.
Federal authorities have said Australia’s international borders, which have been closed to most foreign nationals since March 2020, should reopen by Christmas.
A total of 102,700 coronavirus cases have been detected in Australia since the pandemic began, 1,278 people have died.