Victoria reported 21 deaths - two more than the previous deadliest days earlier this week - and 410 new cases in the past 24 hours, ending a run of three consecutive days with new infections below 400.
A cluster of infections in Melbourne, the Victorian capital and Australia’s second-largest city, forced authorities last week to impose a night curfew, tighten restrictions on people’s daily movements and order large parts of state economy to close.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that while the number of cases were trending down, the impact of the strict new lockdown measures was yet to show up in the case numbers.
“We all know that a week is not the life cycle of this virus ... and our experts remain firm in the view that this will drive the numbers down,” he told reporters.
National numbers have yet to be released but outside the two largest states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) the virus has been effectively eliminated. Queensland state reported no new cases on Wednesday.
Authorities in NSW are scrambling to trace infections linked to a new cluster at a school in Sydney, which has raised fears of more widespread community transmission than previously known in Australia’s most-populous state.
NSW reported 18 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours. But with authorities unable to trace the origins of some of these infections, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said businesses could face additional restrictions.
“We’ve given certainly a grace period for businesses, for organisations, for different establishments to step up their COVID safe plans and if they don’t do that we will have to go a step further,” Berejiklian said at a media briefing.
Australia has reported just over 22,000 infections and 352 deaths from the virus, far fewer on a per capita basis than many other developed countries.