Australia’s state leaders on Friday defended regional shutdowns and internal border closures against the government’s increased pressure to lift restrictive COVID-19 measures with the number of new daily cases getting lower and lower.
Whilst infections have slowly declined in the areas in Australia where the second wave of coronavirus has been prominent in recent days, several state and territory leaders have opted to retain their tough containment measures, some of which include barring inter-state travel, as they remain fearful of another outbreak.
Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk claimed that border security staff were forced into making “difficult and tough decisions”, referring to the state officials’ decision to refuse to let a woman from a virus-free region of Australia to go to her father’s funeral.
The family’s plight over the situation has become a highlight of the growing tensions between state leaders and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, Morrison had criticised the decisions made by Queensland officials to not allow the woman to enter the state whilst her father was seriously ill, and then deny her request to leave quarantine early in order to attend the funeral.
Morrison is keen to give Australia’s economy a boost after it slid to its first recession in almost three decades, also encouraging Victoria’s state leaders to consider lifting the night curfew currently being imposed in Melbourne.
However, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has stood firm, claiming that it is critical for the state to control the movement of people in the state’s capital, with the city being the centre of Australia’s second wave of infections.
After extending an initial six-week hard lockdown in Melbourne until September 28, Andrews said that “If you can limit movement, then you will see less people doing the wrong thing”.
Victoria, which is Australia’s second-most populous state, reported 43 new cases and nine deaths on Friday, confirming the steady downward trend that is present in the state after peaking in August with more than 700 cases in just one day.
Australia has had more than 26,500 cases of COVID-19 as of September 11, and Victoria, which is home to one-quarter of Australia’s population, currently account for around 75% of the country’s total infections.
Victoria also accounts for 90% of its 797 deaths related to the virus.
New South Wales, which is the country’s most populous state, reported ten new cases, whilst Queensland reported just two, with the virus being practically eliminate in all of the other states and territories.