Sydney records first local COVID-19 case in more than a month

People wait in line to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test behind the Kings Park townhouse complex, locked down in response to an outbreak, in Melbourne, Australia, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia's most populous city Sydney has recorded its first locally acquired case of COVID-19 in more than a month, stoking concerns of a fresh wave of infections on Wednesday.

New South Wales (NSW) state said it is not clear how the unnamed man in his 60s acquired the virus, but he was a driver who occasionally transported overseas airline crew.

While authorities urgently try and determine the source of the infection, NSW warned the unnamed man went to the cinema and more than a dozen cafes and shops in Sydney's eastern suburbs, which include Bondi Beach, while potentially infectious.

The emergence of a case in NSW comes as Australia's second most populous state battles to contain a cluster of COVID-19 cases.

Victoria state on Wednesday recorded five COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, though all linked to known cases, but authorities said it will ease restrictions on the 5 million residents of Melbourne.

From Friday, anyone in Melbourne will be allowed to travel more than 25 kms (15 miles) from their home, while mandatory masks wearing outdoors will end.

Melbourne exited a two-week hard lockdown late last week, its fourth since the pandemic began, after an outbreak that has seen about 100 cases since May 24.

Public gatherings will increased to 20 people while the ban on home gatherings will be lifted. Gyms can open across Melbourne but must comply to strict distancing rules and salon services can operate without masks during service.

"It isn't over yet by no means ... please don't go back to behaviours that would suggest that there's absolutely no risk," Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said during a televised media conference in Melbourne.

Swift contact tracing, snap lockdowns and strict social distancing measures has helped Australia successfully combat prior outbreaks and keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just under 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.

Daily cases have remained in single digits for the last nine days in Victoria while other states and territories have effectively eliminated the virus.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Michael Perry)

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