Coronavirus: Are Australia's numbers at risk of increasing?
Officials have asked Australians not to settle for social distancing
Australia has been hailed as a global success story in suppressing the spread of Covid-19.
The virus has not come through as feared due to rapid shutdowns, including border closures and the mandatory quarantine of travelers.
Australia has reported just over 7,400 cases, far fewer than many nations. It has seen 102 deaths - the last one was a month ago.
Since May, the country has gradually withdrawn from the restrictions with the flattening of the curve.
But in the past week there has been an increase in cases in Victoria, mainly in the state capital Melbourne.
Concern has crept back into the public debate: is this a minor setback or could it be something more sustainable?
What happened in Victoria
On June 13, the Australian chief physician Dr. Brendan Murphy noted that the community transmission only seemed to be in Victoria, the second largest state.
He said the virus had been effectively eliminated in many parts of the country. Even the most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), which includes Sydney, had not reported a local broadcast for weeks. That remains the case.
According to Victoria's health authorities, complications have increased due to complacency
But Victoria's situation has worsened since then - an average of 18 new infections were reported every day last week. It is believed that approximately half comprise clusters, particularly transfers between family members and quarantine staff.
Victor Brett Sutton, Victoria's chief health officer, said the state had seen "very low" transmission rates in the community since February, but this has now "reappeared" because people are not doing things as strictly as they do maybe a month, two would have done a few months ago. "
How bad are the numbers?
This is the largest surge Australia has seen in two months, but it remains well below the March high.
Australia's infections started to drop dramatically in April
There are now over 100 active cases in Victoria, most of which have occurred in the past 14 days. Over 100 new cases were reported daily at the end of March.
At that point, several hundred people were hospitalized with the virus and daily infections increased by about 25%.
On Monday, the rate was 0.4%, and nine people were treated in Victoria's well-prepared hospitals.
Testing is also rigorous, widespread, and accessible to anyone with mild symptoms.
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Australia's numbers remain well below many nations. Around 183,000 new cases were reported worldwide in the 24 hours to Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The US has had the most deaths - over 120,000 - followed by Brazil, which has exceeded 50,000.
How do the Australian authorities react?
The Victorian government has brought back stricter restrictions and extended the state of emergency until July 12.
They also focused on six suburban "hot spots" - all in Melbourne. 50 medical teams were deployed to track down over 1,000 patient contacts and expand the tests. If the number increases, residents may be forced to stay at home locally.
Health officials blamed family gatherings that have been allowed since April, where "hugging and kissing" against official advice, blamed much of the problem.
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Victoria has now reduced the 20-person limit in households to five and postponed the further relaxation restrictions for pubs and restaurants.
The Australian Football League (AFL) canceled a game after a player tested positive over the weekend.
Despite fears that a rally to Black Lives Matter held in the city two weeks ago could increase the surge, health officials have indicated that there is no evidence that new cases have been acquired there.
How does the rest of Australia react?
Other states have reported very few, if any, cases in the past month.
Many had already expressed reluctance to open their borders to Victoria and NSW, which have seen the most infections. The recent increase is likely to lead to further delays, some prime ministers have signaled.
On Monday, NSW asked its residents to rethink travel to hotspots in Victoria.
While Victoria's cases make up a quarter of the national total, NSW has closer to a third. When asked by reporters why local broadcasting wasn't a major problem there, Dr. Murphy said it was "good luck".
How big is the risk of a second wave?
When restrictions were first relaxed in May, health officials warned that it was almost impossible to avoid further outbreaks.
They are confident that they will be able to prevent a second wave if they quickly come to clusters.
Australia's success has been consistently attributed to its strong response to public health. It remains in the enviable position of being able to specifically fight outbreaks as long as they are still relatively limited and of a small number.
"It is too early to say what the Victorian outbursts are, but they throw every resource at it," said Dr. Murphy told reporters on Monday.
He said a second wave was when "the outbreak is such that it is not believed that public health measures can easily control it in the short term."
Is there a second wave of coronavirus?
A problem would be a jump from several hundred cases - a level far in excess of the few dozen seen so far.
"The first signs are that it is not escalating at the moment, [but] we need to make sure that it is brought under control," said Dr. Murphy.
"I have great confidence in the Victorians' response to it."
Reporting by Frances Mao from the BBC
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