Asia Today: Australian virus hot spot adds hospital beds

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An employee wearing protective gear as a precaution against the new coronavirus holds banner displaying information about the virus and those infected at the Harmoni Central Busway station in Jakarta Thursday, July 16, 2020. Indonesia has the highest numbers of coronavirus infections and fatalities in Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

MELBOURNE – Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, moved to increase available hospital beds Thursday and reported a record 317 new infections.

The government had planned to restore hospitals to normal medical services by the end of July before infections began to rise in recent weeks.

Instead, the Victoria government responded to the latest spike by reducing non-urgent surgeries allowed in hospitals to increase beds available for COVID-19 patients, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Two men in their 80s died in Victoria in the last 24 hours, bringing the national virus death toll to 113.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the full impact of a six-week lockdown in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, was not yet apparent because it was only a week old.

“It will take some time to bring that stability to the numbers and then of course to start to see a pattern where they are driven down,” Andrews said.

Australia's highest daily tally before Thursday was 288 in Victoria on July 10. Both exceed the previous record of 212 in New South Wales state during the first peak of the pandemic.

“It’s a big number. It needs to turn around," Victoria Chief Health Office Brett Sutton said of the 317 new cases. “In some ways, I expect it to turn around this week. But as I’ve always said, it’s no guarantee. It’s upon all of us to be able to turn this number around."