Victoria will implement mandatory coronavirus tests for returning travellers after a sharp spike in infections over the past two weeks, Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday.
Victoria had 49 new cases on Sunday, its highest in more than two months and the 12th consecutive day of double-digit rises. The rest of Australia has seen almost no infections.
“Much like a bushfire, putting this out is challenging,” Andrews told a press conference, alluding to the black summer bushfires at the end of last year that burnt through vast swaths of the country.
“Containing it, though, is something that we can do, and test and trace is the most effective thing to do.”
This week’s coronavirus case data will determine if the Victorian government will lock down hot spot suburbs.
“The Premier and Victoria has flagged that that is an option and they are matters that I will discuss with the Premier,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said of the potential next step.
“We can leave no stone unturned and no resource left unapplied to this task and I certainly will be considering all options and supporting the Premier and any such strong options that are necessary.”
Victoria’s officials said earlier this week that some 30% of returning travellers refused a COVID-19 test, and Andrews said it will be a mandatory procedure. Australia also requires all locals who return to quarantine in hotels for two weeks.
People in quarantine will be tested twice, first on day three and then on day 11 of their-two week quarantine period. Those still refusing testing will be required to remain in quarantine for a further 10 days, Andrews said.
New South Wales on Sunday recorded only three new cases, implemented similar measure on Friday.
About 40,000 people have been tested since Friday in Victoria as public health officials increased efforts to prevent further spread of the virus. Since the start of the year, nearly12% of the state’s population has been tested.
Despite the spike in Victoria, Australia’s 7,700 cases and104 deaths remain well below that of many other nations.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly.