Australia Reaches 25,000 Coronavirus Cases, Officials Urge More Testing​


People walk in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the state of New South Wales continues to report low numbers for new daily cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia surpassed 25,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, tipped over the milestone by the recent outbreak in Victoria state and prompting a warning from authorities about declining test numbers. 

A lone swimmer enters the ocean at Coogee Beach as the state of New South Wales continues to report low numbers for new daily cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sydney, Australia, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Australia recorded 151 new infections over the past 24 hours, up from 121 a day earlier, with Victoria responsible for the bulk of the cases and New South Wales accounting for the remainder.

The daily numbers were well down from a peak during Australia's second wave of more than 700 in a single day earlier this month, but officials expressed concern about a drop-off in the number of people presenting themselves for COVID-19 tests.

"We are seeing some decrease in the amount of testing ... please, if you have symptoms, do go and get tested," national Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan said during a televised media conference in Canberra.

A police officer watches an entrance to a quarantine hotel, where returning travelers are kept in isolation for a period to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as a patient transport service vehicle departs in Sydney, Australia, August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The new cases took Australia's tally since the pandemic began to 25,067 cases, including 525 deaths. 

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria and the country's second largest city, is the epicentre of the renewed outbreak. The city is just over halfway through a six-week strict lockdown, which requires residents to remain at home unless on essential business. Businesses have been forced to close and a nightly curfew imposed.

Premier Daniel Andrews is attempting to push legislation through state parliament to extend Victoria's state of emergency declaration by another year, giving him the ability to extend or reimpose restrictions over that period.

A woman carries pet birds in a backpack while overlooking the ocean at Coogee Beach as the state of New South Wales continues to report low numbers for new daily cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sydney, Australia, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

NEW ZEALAND TESTING BLITZ

In neighbouring New Zealand, officials announced a testing blitz as they reported seven new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. Health Minister Chris Hopkins said 70,000 tests were planned over the next week.

"We haven’t quite got this cluster completely identified yet, we do need people to take that test when asked," Hopkins said in Wellington, referring to a group of cases in the city of Auckland that earlier this month ended the country's months-long run with no locally transmitted cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday extended a lockdown in Auckland until the end of the week and introduced mandatory mask wearing on public transport across the nation.

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