MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Australian state of Victoria will carry out mandatory coronavirus tests for returning travelers after a sharp increase in infections in the past two weeks, the Prime Minister said on Sunday.
The country’s second largest state had 49 new cases on Sunday, the highest in over two months and the 12th consecutive day with double-digit increases. The rest of Australia has seen almost no infections.
“Similar to a bush fire, extinguishing this is a challenge,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference that alluded to forest fires that burned across much of the country late last year.
“However, it is something we can do and the most effective is to test and track it.”
Victoria officials said earlier this week that about 30% of returning travelers had refused a COVID-19 test, and Andrews said this would be a mandatory procedure. Australia also requires all locals to quarantine in hotels for two weeks.
Quarantined individuals are tested twice, first on the third day and then on the 11th day of their two-week quarantine period. Those who still refuse tests will need to be quarantined for another 10 days, Andrews said.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, which only recorded three new cases on Sunday, implemented a similar measure on Friday.
Around 40,000 people have been tested in Victoria since Friday, as health authorities are working harder to prevent the virus from spreading further. Almost 12% of the state’s population has been tested since the beginning of the year.
Despite the surge in Victoria, Australia’s 7,700 cases and 104 deaths remain well below those of many other nations.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Edited by Tom Hogue