Australia's Victoria state paves way for pop up dining as virus cases remain low


FILE PHOTO: A person crosses a light rail track at Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia, September 7, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's most heavily hit coronavirus state of Victoria logged a sixth consecutive day of low single digit new cases on Wednesday, as the state government said it was on track to announce fresh easing measures at the weekend.

"We do genuinely hope on Sunday to make some announcements in the future and if these numbers stay on trend we will be able to do that," Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.

Victoria, which has been under strict lockdown measures since early July, hopes to revitalise outdoor dining over the summer in the hard hit hospitality sector, by allowing pop up restaurants in public gardens and carparks in downtown areas.

New infections in the Victoria's state capital Melbourne rose by three in the past 24 hours, up from a revised number of two from the day before, bringing total state numbers to 20,323 cases since the outbreak began, of which just 109 remain active.

A downward trend in Victoria, which has been under strict lockdown measures since early July, brings it within reach of a milestone required for opening measures to take place.

Its 14-day moving average of new cases fell to 6.2, close to the five mark required for health authorities to be sure they have stamped out community transmission and open the way for "COVID-normal" life to resume.

Victorians were allowed to extend travel up to 25 kms (15 miles) from their homes as of Monday, up from five kms (three miles), although retail, most beauty services, and hospitality outside of takeaway remain closed.

Elsewhere, Australia's most populous state New South Wales logged two new locally acquired cases and eight from returned travellers, while the northern state of Queensland logged one case from a returning traveller.

Australia has logged only one coronavirus-linked fatality over the past week, in stark contrast to Europe, the United States and much of South America which are in the grip of a rising second wave. It has logged 27,443 coronavirus cases of which around 217 remain active.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Michael Perry)

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