Australia state reports zero cases, lockdown fears ease

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker swabs a member of the public at the Bondi Beach drive-through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre as the city experiences an outbreak in Sydney, Australia, December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Western Australia state reported no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases for the second straight day on Monday, allaying fears of a second lockdown in two weeks after three new coronavirus cases were detected over the weekend.

The fresh cases forced officials to ban crowds at a local football match on Sunday and shut nightclubs until the end of this week in state capital Perth, which had emerged just days ago from a snap lockdown over a single case.

"We will review over the course of the coming day, particularly in light of test results, how things are going (and) as to whether or not we can expire some of those restrictions at that point in time," state Premier Mark McGowan told reporters in Perth.

State authorities on Saturday had flagged the possibility of a hard lockdown in Perth, Australia's fourth largest city, after a hotel quarantine security guard and two of his housemates tested positive for COVID-19.

Though no stay-at-home orders were issued, people were asked to wear masks when they step outside of their homes.

Snap lockdowns, border closures and speedy tracking systems have helped Australia to keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 29,800 cases and 910 deaths.

Last week, Australia banned all travellers coming from India from entering the country, including Australian citizens and permanent residents, following a massive surge in cases in the world's second-most populous country. Offenders will face hefty fines and even up to five years in jail.

Direct flights from India have been halted until May 15.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the travel rules will be constantly reviewed and repatriation flights from India will be restored as soon as it was safe to bring people back home.

"We will do it this week, we will do it the following week. This only needs to be there in place for as long as it needs to be there to keep Australians safe," Morrison told local radio station 2GB on Monday.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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