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Australia's Victoria state posts lowest COVID-19 case rise in two months

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s Victoria state on Saturday reported its lowest rise in new coronavirus cases in almost two months, but authorities warned there would be no rush to lift social distancing restrictions.

The Victorian state capital of Melbourne is four weeks into a six-week hard lockdown that was spurred by a second wave of infections in Australia’s second largest city.

State officials on Saturday reported 94 new COVID-19 infections and 18 deaths. It was the first time new daily case numbers have fallen below 100 in eight weeks, and continued a steady trajectory downward this week. Australia has recorded a total of around 25,500 cases and 601 deaths so far in the pandemic.

“Every day we see the strategy working is a good day but we just need a bit more time to be able to be confident that we are, in fact, defeating this and that we can open up, gradually, steadily, safely,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said at a televised news briefing.

The hard lockdown has restricted most people in the city to one hour of outdoor activity per day. Even if the current measures are eased at the end of the six weeks, some restrictions are expected to remain.

“There’s still a way to go so stay strong and keep going,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on his Facebook page. “Australians all around the country are backing you.”

In bordering New South Wales state, concerns were rising about a resurgence in cases after a cluster of more than a dozen people was identified at one of Sydney’s oldest clubs.

Neighbouring New Zealand, which has also seen a second wave of infections after three months of respite, reported 11 new community transmission cases on Saturday and two new infections in managed quarantine, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 1,376.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; editing by Jane Wardell

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