Australia recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday and the biggest daily rise in infections in three days, denting hopes that a second wave gripping the state of Victoria may be stabilising.
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 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.
National figures for the past 24 hours have yet to be released but outside the two largest states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) the virus has been effectively eliminated.
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.
Australia has reported just over 22,000 infections and 352 deaths from the virus.
Reporting by Renju Jose