Australia on Monday reported its highest daily coronavirus deaths with 19 fatalities during the last 24 hours, all in Victoria state, prompting the state premier to acknowledge that the COVID-19 health crisis was the "greatest challenge" faced by the province.
The country also registered 322 new cases of confirmed infections during the same period, the lowest daily increase in the last 12 days.
The coronavirus has so far claimed 314 lives in Australia with 9,365 active cases. Notably, the jump from 200 to 300 virus deaths has taken just nine days. On August 1, Australia reported its 200th COVID-19 death.
At his daily COVID-19 update on Monday, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said the COVID-19 outbreak was "the greatest challenge" the state has ever faced.
The number of new virus cases at 322 is the lowest daily increase in the last 12 days. All the deaths reported in the last 24 hours were from Victoria.
The premier said a man in his 50s, a woman in her 60s, two males in their 70s, one male and six females in their 80s, and one male and seven females in their 90s were the lastest fatalities of the disease.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison mourned the loss of lives and extended his "sincere condolences to the families".
Morrison said, "The news is devastating no matter what age COVID affects people". The prime minister said briefings over the weekend led him to be hopeful about the situation improving in Victoria.
Victoria, the country's second most populous state, has been struggling to control the second wave of COVID-19. Other states have so far been successful in managing the outbreak with Queensland and New South Wales reporting only one and 14 cases respectively since Sunday.
Victorians are currently in a stage four lockdown. Andrews said the effects of the strict curbs, which were reimposed on August 3, were yet to be seen.
The state government has now unveiled a multi-language television campaign featuring victims of COVID-19, including health workers, talking about the disease and the challenges.
Andrews said his government does not know how many active virus cases would be in Victoria when Melbourne's six-week, stage-four lockdown is scheduled to end on September 13.
"We can't predict where we'll be at the end of this. But what we can be certain of, without any doubt is that if we don't limit movement, we've got zero chance, zero chance, of driving down these numbers. That's why these decisions are important," the premier said.
''I think we've all got to be careful not to be getting ahead of ourselves. Everyone wants to know what's happening in October, with footy (football). Everyone wants to know lots of stuff. That's fair enough," Andrews said, adding that it would be hard to predict the virus curb for the next week and for a date which is five weeks away would be harder.
One of the major concerns for the state health authorities has been the rising numbers of mystery cases in Victoria.
There are currently 7,869 active coronavirus cases in the state but the point of transmission in 2,863 cases is unknown. Presently, there are 640 Victorians in hospital battling COVID-19, including 47 people in intensive care units.