Australia has suffered its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic so far, after 21 people died from the infection on Wednesday.
The deaths, which were recorded in Victoria, dented hopes that a second wave gripping the state may be stabilising.
The number was two higher than the previous deadliest days earlier this week.
The biggest daily rise in infections in three days was also recorded, with 410 new cases in the past 24 hours, ending a run of three consecutive days with new infections below 400.
A cluster of infections in Victoria’s capital Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, forced authorities last week to impose lockdown measures including a night curfew, tightened restrictions on people’s daily movements and the closure of large parts of the state economy.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said that while the number of cases were trending down, the impact of the strict new measures was yet to show up in the case numbers.
He said: “We all know that a week is not the life cycle of this virus ... and our experts remain firm in the view that this will drive the numbers down.”
Only Victoria and the country’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported fresh COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with a total of 428 infections detected in the past 24 hours.
The virus has been effectively eliminated outside of Victoria and NSW.
Authorities in NSW are trying to trace infections linked to a new cluster at a school in Sydney, which has raised fears of more widespread community transmission than previously known in the country’s biggest city.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said businesses could face additional restrictions to prevent further clusters developing.
She added: “We’ve given certainly a grace period for businesses, for organisations, for different establishments to step up their COVID safe plans and if they don’t do that we will have to go a step further.”
Australia has reported just over 22,000 infections and 352 deaths from the virus, far fewer on a per capita basis than many other countries.
With around 1,500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths, neighbouring New Zealand’s exposure to the virus remains well below the majority of nations.
But it also recently had new cases of the virus after 102 days with no local transmissions.
Coronavirus: what happened today