June 1 (UPI) — Health officials in the Australian state of Victoria reported only three new coronavirus cases on Monday as they weighed whether to extend a strict, seven-day “circuit breaker” COVID-19 lockdown.
The new local cases, as well as two additional cases acquired overseas, were observed among more than 42,000 test results examined, the Victoria Department of Health reported.
Victoria, with a population of 7 million, entered a fourth lockdown Friday after a cluster of 26 new infections were detected in the city of Melbourne last week.
Under the rules of the lockdown, residents are not allowed to leave their homes except for food and supplies, authorized work, care and caregiving, exercise and getting vaccinated.
Monday’s lower case total sparked hopes that the lockdown could be ended as scheduled at 11:59 p.m. Thursday. Of the nine confirmed cases, six had previously been reported, meaning there were only three completely new infections found, officials said.
Acting Victoria Premier James Merlino, however, has been unwilling to predict whether it will conclude as now planned, partly due to the continued discovery of new exposure sites uncovered through case tracking.
The health department extended its list of COVID-19 exposure sites associated with the outbreak to more than 300 on Monday.
“”There is no doubt that this situation is incredibly serious,” Merlino told reporters Sunday. “The next few days remain critical. I want to be really clear with everyone that this outbreak may well get worse before it gets better.”