The Informer: Feeling the heat, but Australia avoids COVID troubles

Victoria has loosened its restrictions on household gatherings. Picture: Shutterstock
Victoria has loosened its restrictions on household gatherings. Picture: Shutterstock

The good news: border restrictions for more NSW residents have been relaxed, with people from nearly all of Sydney now allowed to enter Victoria and isolate until they receive a negative COVID-19 test.

The bad news: the coronavirus variant first detected in the UK may be deadlier than the original, the country's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said.

But so far in Australia containment efforts have prevented an outbreak of the so-called UK variant.

This weekend, extreme heat conditions will batter Australia's south-east, with temperatures in some parts expected to reach 45 degrees.

"We have a large high-pressure system sitting out in the Tasman and inland trough, and together they're acting to funnel in a hot northerly air mass," the Bureau of Meteorology's Alexander Majchrowski said.

Luckily for Victorians, if your friends have a good air conditioner, there's more of a chance they can share the cool with you.

More visitors are allowed in households across the state, with the indoor gathering limit at homes doubling from 15 people to 30.

Saturday marked the state's 17th consecutive day with no local transmission of the virus; three cases were found in hotel quarantine. There are 33 active cases in Victoria.

It's quite a different story in Hong Kong, where the government has declared its first lockdown.

About 10,000 residents in the Jordan neighbourhood in Kowloon will be locked down and tested over the weekend. They cannot leave the area but can move around within it.

Perhaps it's the threat of lockdowns - or the memory of them - which is encouraging more people to consider moving to regional Australia.

While property prices in regional areas jump, vacancy rates for apartments in inner-city Melbourne and Sydney remain reasonably high.

With fewer people bound to a desk in a city office in the age of working from home, housing supply in regional areas is increasingly under strain.

"I think this is going to be exactly what we're going to see this year, people getting out of the larger cities and moving to the regions," Real Estate Institute of Australia president Adrian Kelly said.

And finally, Surf Life Saving Australia has urged Australians to plan their visits to the beach more carefully, after a high number of people have drowned trying to rescue others.

Five people have died in bystander rescue drownings since December 1, which is the figure normally expected in a year.

"As you are running into the water, in that one to two seconds have a quick look around: is there a surfboard or boogie board, some sort of flotation device - even an Esky lid - that's going to help support you?" Surf Life Saving Australia coastal safety general manager Shane Daw said.

"Because in virtually all (rescue fatality) situations ... they didn't take any type of flotation device."

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This story Feeling the heat, but Australia avoids COVID troubles first appeared on The Canberra Times.