Australia reported its largest one-day surge in coronavirus deaths on Monday. However, a decrease in the number of cases offered hope that the second wave of new COVID-19 infections in the state of Victoria may have finally peaked.
In the past 24 hours, nineteen people—all from Victoria— have succumbed to the virus, which is a daily national record. Despite that death toll, only 337 people were diagnosed with the disease across the country, which was also the lowest one-day spike since July 29, said officials.
Michael Kidd, Australia's deputy chief medical officer, told reporters, "This is an agonizing day for the members for the 19 families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 today. We are now seeing the first promising signs of a significant decline in the number of cases."
Fewer Cases And Death Than Several Developed Nations
The slowdown in cases comes more than a month after the nearly 5 million residents of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, were told to stay home, and a week after most businesses in the country's second-largest city were ordered to close in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
With about 21,000 COVID-19 cases and 314 deaths, Australia has still recorded fewer infections and fatalities than many other developed nations. Outside the two largest states of Victoria and New South Wales, the virus has been effectively eliminated.
Desperate to contain the outbreak, Australia's states and territories have closed their borders and slowed a timetable to remove remaining social-distancing restrictions. Victoria will continue in a hard lockdown for at least another five weeks.
Government Pledges to Expand Wage Subsidy
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said internal travel restrictions were likely to remain until at least Christmas. Social distancing restrictions have devastated Australia's economy. Unemployment is expected to peak at 14 percent this year as the country enters its first recession in nearly three decades.
The government last week pledged to expand its wage subsidy scheme by A$16.8 billion ($12 billion) amid the Victorian outbreak, prompting some criticism that the economic toll was too high. But Morrison said the alternative was unthinkable.
"There have been some suggestions, I've read it ... that somehow our elderly should in some way have been offered up in relation to this virus," Morrison told reporters in Canberra. "That is a just hideous thought. An absolutely amoral, hideous thought. One that I've had no countenance with when it's been suggested."
(With inputs from agencies)