MELBOURNE – The beleaguered Australian state of Victoria received some good news Saturday with health officials reporting 216 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said a man in his 90s died overnight while 49 remained hospitalized, including 15 in intensive care. He warned of more difficult days ahead, saying, “We will see more and more additional cases, that’s the nature of this.”
Victoria has recorded 3,560 confirmed cases, and Australia overall has had more than 9,000 with 107 deaths.
Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state after neighboring New South Wales, has been cut off with border closures by other states. All states and territories except New South Wales had eradicated community transmission of the virus, but Victoria-linked infections are spreading.
Victoria hopes a second lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city with a population of 5 million, will curb the spread. It was imposed Wednesday and will last six weeks.
“As inconvenient and as challenging as it is, we cannot deny the reality of the situation we face, and we cannot pretend that doing anything other than following the rules will get us to the other side of this,” Andrews said of the extended lockdown.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has given provisional approval to the drug remdesivir, an experimental medicine that has shown promise in the recovery time of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
Authorities say remdesivir will be available only to patients who are severely ill, require oxygen or high-level support to breathe, and are in hospital care. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for people with severe illness from the coronavirus.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— India’s coronavirus cases have passed 800,000 with the biggest spike of 27,114 cases in the past 24 hours, causing nearly a dozen states to impose a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. The new confirmed cases took the national total to 820,916. The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported another 519 deaths for a total of 22,123. A surge in infections saw the cases jumping from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. The ministry said the recovery rate was continuing to improve at more than 62%. Eight of India’s 28 states, including the worst-hit Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi, account for nearly 90% of all infections. The most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, with nearly 230 million people, imposed a weekend lockdown while several others announced restrictions in districts reporting major spikes.
— New coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in China, and authorities are turning their attention to concerns that the virus could spread through imported food. Those worries have risen since a June outbreak in Beijing that was linked to the city’s largest wholesale market. Testing has been stepped up on incoming food shipments, and on Friday customs officials said they are halting imports from three Ecuadorian shrimp producers after tests showed the virus present in recent shipments. Authorities say the coronavirus was detected on the outer packaging of the shipments July 3. The inner packaging and the shrimp themselves tested negative. Products from the three companies received after March 12 have been ordered to be returned or destroyed.
— South Korea has reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its caseload to 13,373 infections and 288 deaths. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday that 13 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. Infections were also reported in other major cities such Daejeon and Gwangju, tied to places including churches, a Buddhist temple, nursing homes and a sauna. Fifteen of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak