21/09/2020 8:37 AM AEST | Updated 21/09/2020 9:01 AM AEST

Melbourne COVID-19 Cases Decline, Health Authorities Address Borders Opening

"It’s encouraging that the numbers are declining... and we look forward again to an open Australia over the summer months."

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Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported two deaths from COVID-19 and 11 cases, continuing a steady downward trend in daily cases and putting the state on course to ease more restrictions.

On Sunday the state reported five deaths from the virus and 14 new cases, its lowest rise in daily infections in three months.

A hard lockdown in Melbourne has brought daily coronavirus cases down to double digits after it touched highs of 700 in early August. 

“Well, it’s great news to see the numbers continue to decline today,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth told ‘ABC’s Mews Breakfast’ on Monday morning, before reminding viewers “there’s still a way to go”.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Streets remain empty due to the Stage 4 restrictions and curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. as part of new measures taken against the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, on September 18, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Australia confirmed 5 more loss of life in State of Victoria from the novel coronavirus, bringing the nationwide death toll to 837. (Photo by Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“When Victorians come out of restrictions, particularly in Melbourne, the complacency has to be avoided,” said Dr Coatsworth.

“We know how to stop this virus, if we limit household gatherings, wash hands frequently and have the COVID safe app download and maintain physical distance and of course mask wearing being mandatory, these things will allow us to lift restrictions safely.” 

New South Wales reported two new cases on Sunday, while Queensland also reported two.

When asked about if he had seen any modelling indicating when borders may open, Dr Coatsworth said “we are not using modelling specifically for that issue and it will be a matter for state and territory leaders”.

“But of course, it’s encouraging that the numbers are declining and of course that will come into decision-making for our chief health officer colleagues about borders and we look forward again to an open Australia over the summer months,” he added. 

Meanwhile Victoria’s new figures put the state on track to meet a target of keeping average daily increases below 50 by September 28 when the authorities have said they may lift restrictions.

“There will of course always be debates about timing and whether we’re on schedule, ahead of schedule, all of those things, (but) ultimately these numbers are cause for great optimism and positivity,” Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised news conference on Sunday. 

Darrian Traynor via Getty Images
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks at the daily briefing on September 20, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Victoria has recorded 14 new coronavirus cases and five deaths in the past 24 hours, the second day in a row of daily new cases under 30 after 21 cases were recorded on Saturday. It is the lowest case numbers for Victoria since June 24 where 20 cases were reported. Metropolitan Melbourne remains under stage 4 lockdown restrictions, with people only allowed to leave home to give or receive care, shopping for food and essential items, daily exercise and work while an overnight curfew from 8pm to 5am is also in place. The majority of retail businesses are also closed. Other Victorian regions are in stage 3 lockdown. The restrictions, which came into effect from 2 August, were introduced by the Victorian government as health authorities work to reduce community COVID-19 transmissions across the state. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Andrews, who has faced political pressure domestically for his hard-line approach to enforcing restrictions of movement, invoked recent spikes in infection rates in Europe as a warning about the possible effect of exiting the lockdown too soon.

“It’s heartbreaking to see, all that those communities have given, all the sacrifice that they’ve made, and now they’ve got cases running perhaps more wildly than their first wave,” he said. “You’ve got to see it off.”

Melbourne has been under one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, including a nightly curfew, after a second outbreak in that state saw daily infection rates over 700 and prompted other states to close internal borders.

The country has reported just under 26,900 infections.

Reporting by Renju Jose and Byron Kaye (Reuters) 

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