Melbourne beachgoers urged to comply with virus restrictions

WELLINGTON • Beachgoers in Australia’s state of Victoria have been warned to obey restrictions on public behaviour and social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19, or risk having some popular swimming spots closed.

Victoria police stepped up patrols and said they will increase fines after temperatures as high as 28°C (82°F) brought out weekend crowds at beaches in the state capital of Melbourne. Local media reported councils were monitoring the situation and have the option of closing some beaches.

“Police are out there and they will fine you,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. “It would be unwise for anybody who is thinking about doing those sorts of things the next time we get a warm day.”

Victoria has been the centre of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak after security failures at quarantine hotels for returned overseas travellers led to a resurgence of community transmission. While a curfew in Melbourne was lifted last week, limits on public gatherings of as many as five people still apply and will be reviewed later this month if the city can achieve Covid-19 case targets.

The state had 12 new cases in the last 24 hours and one death, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a Twitter post yesterday. The 14-day rolling average in metropolitan Melbourne dropped to 11.9.

Restrictions in Melbourne can be eased from Oct 19 if the rolling average drops to lower than five and there are fewer than five cases from unknown sources in the preceding 14 days.

The tally of these so-called mystery infections rose to 13 in the two weeks to Oct 1 and this “remains a concern”, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters. Authorities also want to reduce the total number of active cases, which was unchanged from the previous day, after posting daily declines since mid-August, he said.

“We need to drive it down,” he said. “We will get there. We’ve got days ahead of us that’ll be lower than 12, so that number of active cases will come down.”

Andrews said everyone in the state needs to follow the rules to help curb community transmission.

“People love to go to the beach when it’s sunny, but there’s a global pandemic on and we’re very close to beating the second wave,” he said. “Yes, there’s a natural urge to go and spend time in the sun. But surely there’s a greater urge to see this thing off, to defeat it and to have a normal summer and to have a 2021 vastly different and better than the way 2020 has unfolded.”

Separately, New South Wales state officials reported zero locally transmitted cases for a ninth straight day. — Bloomberg