Australia reported a record number of daily coronavirus deaths on Monday, although the number of new infections in the country’s virus hot spot fell to a near two-week low.
Officials in Victoria reported that 19 people died from the virus over the past 24 hours and 322 new cases.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said he understood frustrations but declined to put an end date on the lockdown.
“If I could paint you a picture that had any kind of reliability for next week, let alone five weeks away, then, of course, I would,” Andrews said during a televised media conference.
With around 21,000 COVID-19 cases and 314 deaths, Australia has still recorded fewer infections and fatalities than many other developed nations.
It was considered a global leader early in the pandemic, when it was swift to close its international border, impose social distancing restrictions and implement mass virus testing.
But as the country began to reopen, community transmissions rose significantly in Victoria, where triple digit daily new cases have now been recorded for weeks.
Authorities worry the spike in cases in Victoria has already spread to other states despite borders border closures.
New South Wales reported 14 new cases, and no deaths, on Monday. Twelve cases were linked to known clusters while another was a person in hotel quarantine after returning from overseas, leaving one case with no known links.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said internal border closures were unlikely to lift before Christmas, however said he was “hopeful” as drastic lockdown measures in Melbourne appear to be having an effect.
“I am more hopeful of that today than I was in the course of the past week,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, as he called on state leaders to cooperate to allow stranded residents to return home.
This article has been updated with new information.