Australian authorities opened a pop-up coronavirus testing clinic at Sydney’s Bondi Beach on Wednesday, as the country’s central bank warned the economic fallout from the pandemic could last for more than a year.
Authorities were zeroing in on specific areas that have reported clusters of infections, following a sustained slow down in new cases in recent days to around 4,700 nationally. The death toll stands at 20, after a steady creep upward in recent days.
Officials have stressed the need for continuing strict social distancing measures despite the slowdown, including restricting the number of people meeting in public to just two and the closure of parks, beaches, and gyms.
NSW, the country’s most populous state, is responsible for almost half of the national cases and has imposed the strictest penalties for anybody found breaching the rules restricting movement.
At Bondi Beach, health workers wearing masks and plastic gloves greeted people at the pop-up testing clinic. NSW officials said earlier this week the virus may have been transmitted in the Bondi community via an infected backpacker who was not aware they were carrying the disease.
Bondi made headlines in March when thousands of people were seen ignoring social distancing rules at its world-famous beach.
Official data showed that young people aged 20-29 account for the highest rates of coronavirus infections across the country, followed by those in their early 60s. Experts told local media the former was most likely to travel or socialize in groups, while the latter represented the cruise ship demographic.
The rate of growth in new infections across Australia has slowed to just under 10% over the past three days, from 25-30% a week ago, raising hopes that Australia is starting to “flatten the curve”.
The federal government has planned for up to 100 pop-up clinics across the country to ramp up testing in transmission hot spots.
In South Australia, the Barossa Valley wine region has closed schools and facilities this week due to a localized outbreak, while six baggage-handlers working at the state’s Adelaide airport have also tested positive to COVID-19.
A single aged-care facility in Sydney accounts for a quarter of the national death toll.