Australia's Victoria reports no coronavirus cases, set to ease curbs

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Australia’s Victoria state reported no local coronavirus cases on Wednesday (Feb 17), when a snap five-day lockdown is due to end, putting it on track to ease restrictions that were put in place to contain an outbreak in Melbourne.

Australia’s second-most populous state has been reporting low single-digit cases during much of the lockdown, which began last Friday, suggesting an outbreak linked to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne has been brought under control.

Residents of the state, more than a quarter of Australia’s 25 million population, were ordered to stay home except for work, buying groceries, outdoor exercise and caregiving.

Authorities a day earlier said the state was “well placed” to come out of the lockdown on Wednesday if there was no spike in community cases.

A potential end to the lockdown could allow crowds to return to the Australian Open tennis tournament, the first grand slam event of the year, which is being held in the state capital of Melbourne until Feb 21.

Australia has largely avoided the high rate of Covid-19 cases and deaths seen in other developed countries thanks to border closures and effective contact tracing systems. It has reported just under 29,000 cases and 909 deaths.

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