Australia’s Victoria state on Wednesday recorded its second-most deadly day of the coronavirus pandemic with 24 deaths, although fewer new infections were detected at the half-way mark of a strict six-week lockdown.
The southeastern state detected 149 new cases compared with 148 reported on Tuesday, well down on the peak of more than 700 daily cases on Aug 5. The record daily death toll was 25 reported last week.
Victoria’s government wants to extend a state of emergency by another year to combat the spread of the virus, allowing it to prolong or reimpose lockdowns over that period.
The move has alarmed critics of the state government, including members of the federal cabinet who say an extended state of emergency is undemocratic.
“They take away liberties, they take away the functioning of democracy in the state of Victoria,” federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Almost 64% of Australia’s 549 deaths from COVID-19 have occurred among elderly residents of aged-care homes, which are overseen by the federal government.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under attack from the opposition in parliament this week for the government’s handling of the crisis in aged care.
Asked by reporters about the high rate of fatalities in aged-care facilities, he compared Australia’s record to the United Kingdom’s.
“There is over 2,700 aged care facilities in this country and 97 percent of those have had no resident COVID-19 infections,” he said.
“Had the UK results been realised here in Australia over a thousand centres would have been affected.”
Australia surpassed 25,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with Victoria responsible for the bulk of cases.