Melbourne: Australia recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic on Monday as the government urged hot spot Victoria state to announce its plans to lift a lockdown on the country’s second-largest city.
Victoria’s health department reported 41 deaths from COVID-19 and 73 new infections in the latest 24-hour period.
While the deaths were a state and national high, the tally of new infections was Victoria’s lowest since 67 new cases were recorded on June 30 in the early weeks of the second wave of the pandemic, which has primarily been concentrated in the state capital, Melbourne.
A six-week lockdown in the city is due to be relaxed on September 13. But the state government has not said how it will be relaxed or given any assurances that it won’t be extended.
Victoria has recorded more than 19,000 infections with the coronavirus, almost 80 percent of Australia’s more than 25,000 cases, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. The state also accounts for the vast majority of Australia’s more than 650 deaths.
Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday he disagreed with the Victorian government that it was too early to announce plans to reopen the economy.
Business is very frustrated because they haven’t been told when can they open up, when can people get back to work, Frydenberg told Nine Network television.
Frydenberg pointed to a Treasury Department forecast that in the next three months more people in Victoria will be receiving pandemic employment subsidies than from the rest of Australia combined. Australia pays employers an allowance known as Job Keeper to continue paying staff who have no work to do.
Consumer spending had fallen 30 percent in Victoria due to the lockdown while spending had declined by only 3 percent across the rest of Australia.