Australia’s most populous state eases COVID-19 curbs despite cases hitting six-week high

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state said on Tuesday it will ease restrictions despite reporting the biggest one-day jump in new COVID-19 cases in six weeks.

New South Wales (NSW) said that from Oct. 16 venues that offer outdoor dining will be allowed to have double the number of patrons outside. NSW previously required such venues to ensure four square metres (13 square feet) for each patron.

“We know particularly in our state during this pandemic some of the hardest hit industries have been arts and recreation and hospitality,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told reporters in Sydney.

Australia’s federal government hopes easing state restrictions will help revive the country’s ailing economy.

The easing of restrictions comes despite NSW reporting 13 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the biggest one-day rise in infections since Sep. 2.

Australia has now reported just over 27,000 infections and 899 deaths from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The bulk of Australia’s infections have been in Victoria state, which is entering its third month of a stringent lockdown.

Victorian authorities have said most of the restrictions will be eased when the average number of daily COVID-19 infections over a two-week period falls below five. The average stood at 10 on Tuesday, threatening to prolong the lockdown.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Stephen Coates)