MELBOURNE, June 24: Military force has been called in Australia to help tackle a corona virus outbreak in the country’s second-most populous city, Melbourne.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government had offered the army’s support to respond to the virus outbreak, while four other states had offered help with contact tracing.
Victoria has recorded double-digit increases in new daily cases for more than a week, mostly in the state capital Melbourne, representing a sizeable spike in cases in a country that has otherwise successfully curbed COVID-19.
Officials said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has accepted the offers of assistance from the states and asked for logistical support from the army.
“This support will mean we can get even more tests done and results back quickly and a stronger effort to remind Victorians if you are sick, stay home and get tested,” a state government spokesperson said.
It comes as the country recorded its first COVID-19 death in a month, with a man in his 80s dying in Victoria, where community concern about the virus spread is ramping up.
Major supermarkets in the state also reimposed buying limits on toilet paper and other essentials on Wednesday after an increase in demand sparked fears of a return of panic-buying.
Hunt said the situation had reached a “critical juncture” and health authorities were considering local lockdowns in the worst-affected areas because of the outbreak. “Somebody has either not known, or not done the right thing, so we need to be honest about that,” he said.
Australia has been an international success story to date, recording roughly 7,500 cases of corona virus and 103 deaths in a population of 25 million. Several regions are believed to be effectively virus free, with fewer than 200 known active cases across the country.