Australia's Victoria sees 'stabilisation' in new coronavirus cases

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FILE PHOTO: Bourke Street mall is seen devoid of people after Melbourne re-entered lockdown to curb a resurgence of COVID-19
FILE PHOTO: Bourke Street mall is seen devoid of people after Melbourne re-entered lockdown to curb a resurgence of COVID-19

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's second-most populous state, Victoria, recorded 466 cases of the new coronavirus on Saturday and 12 COVID-19 deaths, though authorities expressed hope for a stabilisation in new infections thanks to strict mobility restrictions.

Victoria is at the centre of a second wave of infections in Australia, accounting for more than two-thirds of the national tally of nearly 21,000.

The southeastern state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has recorded 181 deaths, almost 70% of the Australia's fatalities from the pandemic.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews expressed concern over 2,584 "mystery cases," including 130 on Saturday, with unknown sources of infection.

"We have to assume there is more virus, more transmission, more cases out there than the data tells us," Andrews told a news conference.

Victoria's Chief Medical Officer Brett Sutton welcomed a "stabilisation" in coronavirus cases, saying the state had averted an exponential increase in infections due to its strict lockdowns.

"If we hadn't stabilised these numbers, we would have seen thousands of cases per day," Sutton said. Coronavirus cases in Victoria have averaged at 400-500 per day over the last week.

Melbourne, the country's second-biggest city, went under a strict Stage Four lockdown on Thursday, shuttering shops and business and requiring its five million inhabitants to stay home.

"We have a zero chance of driving these numbers down if we don't drive movement down, the amount of person-to-person contact, the amount of people moving through the community," Andrews said.

"This thing is... a public health bushfire, but you cannot smell the smoke and you cannot see the flames, it moves so fast that unless you make these changes, we just have no chance whatsoever of driving down these numbers."

Neighbouring New South Wales state recorded nine cases on Saturday.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by William Mallard)