Australia sees more signs of coronavirus spread stabilising

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia on Saturday reported more signs that the spread of the novel coronavirus has been stabilising, as New South Wales (NSW) health authorities defended the disembarking in mid-March of a virus-hit cruise ship.

According to the federal health ministry data, there were 230 new cases of the coronavirus in the 24-hour period to early Saturday in Australia, bringing the total to 5,454 cases.

This suggests the daily increase rate has continued to stay at around 5% in recent days, significantly lower than the 30% jumps seen two weeks ago.

Twenty-eight deaths so far have been related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Seven deaths and more than 600 coronavirus cases have come from one cruise ship alone – Carnival Corp’s Ruby Princess, which disembarked in Sydney in March despite health officials knowing of the risk of coronavirus aboard the ship.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard defended criticism of health officials who allowed the ship’s more than 2,700 passengers to leave.

“Each of the staff of the chief health officer made the decision made it to the best of their ability,” Hazzard told reporters in televised briefing. “And those people are experts in their fields.”

Cruise ships are responsible for at around 20% of Australia’s coronavirus cases and several remain floating in waters off the coast after being refused entry to ports.

Although the spread of the coronavirus cases has shown signs of slowing, Australia has been strengthened its efforts in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic, cases now past 1 million worldwide and fatalities at more than 53,000 fatalities.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s top biosecurity research agency, said on Saturday it has received A$220 million ($132 million) from the government to update its facilities.

On Thursday, Australia’s national science agency, which is operated by CSIRO, said it had commenced pre-clinical testing of two potential vaccines at its high-containment biosecurity facility near Melbourne.

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