(Corrects death toll in second paragraph to 485 not 472)
SYDNEY, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Australia’s second most populous state, Victoria, reported 13 new coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, authorities said, while new infections in the hotspot state remained below 200 for the second consecutive day.
Other than in Victoria, which accounts for over 80% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths due to a second wave of infections, Australia has large avoided the high casualty numbers of many nations with just under 24,500 infections and 485 deaths.
“It’s great to see two days in a row under 200, certainly we are trending down,” said Brett Sutton, the state’s chief health officer.
“The best way to safeguard against a third wave is to bring that number down to the lowest feasible, possible level.”
The state, home to about one in four Australians, had reported 182 new infections. That followed 179 new cases and nine deaths on Friday, down from over 700 a day two weeks ago.
Almost mid-way through a six-week lockdown imposed in early August, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he was hopeful the toughened restrictions were working.
“It’s difficult, it’s painful, I know, but if we can just stay the course then we will get to the other side of this. Then we’ll be able to open up,” he said.
Meanwhile, the north eastern state of Queensland introduced an immediate 10-people cap to all gatherings in Brisbane, its capital, and surrounding regions, after a small outbreak was found at a youth detention centre.
Queensland and neighboring New South Wales each reported nine new cases Saturday and no new casualties, officials said.
In New Zealand, where businesses and schools in its biggest city, Auckland, remain on lockdown amid a recent cluster of coronavirus cases, health authorities reported six new infections on Saturday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to review whether to ease or extend the lockdown beyond Aug. 26, on Monday. (Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
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