Australia: NSW pub cluster raises second wave alarms

Australia’s most populous state reported 14 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday with a growing cluster at a pub used by freight drivers travelling the country adding to fears of a second wave of the virus.

The fresh surge in New South Wales comes after neighbouring Victoria forced about five million people back into lockdown last week.

Australia has avoided the high Covid-19 casualty numbers unlike other nations with swift and strict measures. The continent recorded fewer than 10,000 coronavirus cases in total.

However, authorities are worried about rising cases of community transmission.

A bulk of community transmission cases were reported by people who recently visited a pub in southwest Sydney, the Crossroads Hotel, taking the cluster to 13 in all.

“The concern is that this hotel is used by freight drivers who are transporting essential supplies across the country,” Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“They are not being tested.”

In a bid to curtail the spread, authorities urged anyone who attended the pub to isolate for 14 days and get tested. Now, long lines of cars wait for more than three hours to attend a drive-through test clinic.

The virus, however, has already spread to at least one more high traffic venue, with a patron at Sydney’s Star casino on 4 July testing positive for Covid-19, the Star Entertainment Group Ltd said.

In Victoria state, authorities on Monday reported 177 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the eighth consecutive day of triple digit rises in Covid-19 cases, but down from 273 cases the previous day.

“It may not be our peak yet,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne. “I would like to see a week of decreasing numbers.”

Australia’s Minister for Health Greg Hunt said 1,000 military personnel had been dispatched to help state officials curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

Scientists, meanwhile, have begun trials of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed at the University of Queensland. Preliminary results of the trial are expected to be released by the end of September, the university said.

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