Australia’s Victoria reports easing in COVID-19 cases

Australia’s Victoria state on Tuesday reported an easing in new COVID-19 infections as it looks to accelerate the vaccination rollout in Melbourne’s hardest-hit suburbs, the state capital.

A total of 445 new locally acquired cases were detected, down from the year’s high of 473 hit a day earlier. Two new deaths were reported.

Melbourne hopes to come out of an extended lockdown through higher vaccination rates after ditching a virus elimination strategy as officials struggle to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly infectious delta variant.

The federal government plans to move an additional 417,000 vaccine doses over the next three weeks for residents in Melbourne’s north and west, where most new infections are being detected. Pop-up hubs will be set up in schools, community centers and places of worship.

Nearly half of Australia’s 25 million population is in lockdown, including people in Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, and the capital Canberra, as the country grapples with a third wave of infections.

Still, its coronavirus numbers are far lower than comparable countries, with around 75,700 cases and 1,100 deaths, and the mortality rate in the latest outbreak is lower than last year due to higher vaccinations among the vulnerable.

Authorities hope to ease some tough restrictions once two-dose vaccination rates in the adult population reach 70 percent, and then relax more curbs at 80 percent, from 42 percent now.

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