Australian student, meat plant workers among new virus cases

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia reported 26 new cases of the coronavirus, including a seven-year-old boy, across three states on Monday in the biggest daily jump in two weeks.

FILE PHOTO: A medical personnel administers tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Bondi Beach drive-through testing centre in Sydney, Australia, April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

The number of new infections could rise still higher as more states and territories report case numbers throughout the day.

Authorities in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, closed the primary school attended by the infected boy for intensive cleaning as they attempt to trace the source of the infection.

In neighbouring Victoria state, a testing blitz returned 22 new cases, 19 of which were connected to a meat processing plant, authorities said. The northern state of Queensland reported three new cases, two of whom had been travelling overseas and one on a cruise ship.

The Sydney school infection draws attention to the contentious question of whether children should attend school during the outbreak, even though the daily infection rate has slowed to a crawl.

The federal government has said schools should stay open since children carry a low risk of spreading the flu-like illness, while some state governments have urged parents to keep children at home.

NSW, home to nearly half the country’s roughly 6,800 coronavirus infections, will reopen schools on a staggered basis from next week, while Victoria has asked parents to keep children at home until the middle of the year.

The states and territories are also moving at different speeds to lift movement restrictions: NSW has allowed people to make house visits in groups of up to two, while Victoria is retaining its stay-home order until at least May 11.

“This is a struggle and … it’s not easy to live this way, but none of us can assume, just because we’re frustrated, that this is over,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Monday. “This is far from over. We have to stay the course.”

The smaller state of South Australia, a popular tourism destination, plans to lift a ban on interstate travel within days, the Australian newspaper reported on Monday.

The New Zealand Warriors rugby team arrived in Queensland state on Sunday and entered a mandatory two-week quarantine before the start of the Australian rugby league season on May 28, after a two-month delay due to the pandemic, media reported.

Australia has so far escaped the high numbers of casualties seen in other countries, with about 6,800 infections and 95 deaths.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Sam Holmes and Jane Wardell

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