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Australia's Victoria state reports 74 new cases

Police check drivers at a roadblock in suburban Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, July 2, 2020. (Daniel Pockett/AAP Image via AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- The hard-hit Australian state of Victoria has recorded 74 new coronavirus cases after announcing a record 108 new infections on Saturday.

    The Saturday increase resulted in state Premier Daniel Andrews announcing a lockdown of nine inner-city public housing blocks containing 3,000 people, where 27 cases have been detected.

    Police are guarding every entrance of the housing estates and residents are not allowed to leave their homes for any reason.

    Andrews said the residents will have their rent waived for the next two weeks and will receive one-off hardship payments of between 750 and 1,500 Australian dollars ($520 to $1,040). The government said it would arrange the delivery of food and medical supplies to all homes.

    "This is about protection for you and your loved ones," Andrews said. "And then, by extension, it's about protecting the entire state and we don't make those decisions lightly."

    Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone called for a temporary halt to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country after the alarming surge in Victoria.

    "These new outbreaks send a strong signal that the other states should rethink the pace of easing of their COVID-19 restrictions until community transmission in Melbourne is under control to avoid the risk of a similar situation playing out in their own communities," he said in a statement.

    "Before rushing back to the pub, the footy crowds, or the big weddings and parties, Australia should pause and play it safe."

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