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SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's Victoria state on Wednesday said the daily rise in infections in its coronavirus hot spot of Melbourne has eased further, setting it on course to relax an extended hard lockdown in the city by the end of the month.

Average cases over the last two weeks in Melbourne, the state's largest city, fell below 50, health authorities said, within the target range for the state to ease more curbs.

Construction sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses and childcare facilities can reopen, allowing more than 100,000 workers to return to their jobs, if the 14-day rolling average is under 50 cases as of Sept. 28.

However, people will still be limited to moving around in a 5 kilometre (3.11 miles) radius around home and only allowed outside for two hours a day for exercise, with a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

With daily infections falling to double digits over the last several days from highs of 700 in early August, Victoria state authorities have began relaxing some lockdown restrictions put in place to contain the virus.

Social distancing restrictions in regional areas of the state will be eased late on Wednesday.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted, residents of a household will now be allowed to visit one other home, and cafes will be able to seat up to 50 people outside.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, said eight people died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours and 42 new cases were confirmed, the same number of infections reported a day earlier.

Australia has reported over 26,700 coronavirus cases and 824 deaths, with Victoria accounting for the bulk of both.

Queensland state on Wednesday reported no new cases.

New South Wales, the country's most populous state, will report its case numbers later in the day. The virus has been effectively eliminated in other states and territories.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Tom Hogue and Michael Perry)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Gov. Cuomo to target bars frequented by college students

ALBANY — Beer pong alert: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is directing his recently heavy-handed State Liquor Authority to beef up inspections at watering holes frequented by college kids.

“With the return of college students for the fall semester, Governor Cuomo has directed the State Liquor Authority to increase efforts to ensure bars and restaurants in areas where college students gather are abiding by all public health measures,” a Friday press release announced.

It cited “egregious violations” in Cortland, Dutchess, Madison, Monroe, Oswego and Schenectady counties — some of which leading to the suspension of the business’ liquor license.

“With significant outbreaks linked to colleges and universities across the nation, these stepped-up efforts will help keep our students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding communities safe.

“On the list of casualties include Poughkeepsie’s Emmett Mahoney’s Irish Pub and Steakhouse in Poughkeepsie — a favorite of Marist College students.

State inspectors visited the establishment on Friday, Sept. 11 and observed 50 revealers drinking and floating social distancing requirements while dancing to a DJ sans masks.

Other offenders include Albany’s “Clubhouse,” following an Aug. 28 visit after multiple complaints were waged according to state records.

A state inspector found overcrowding, maskless patrons and “no evidence of food being served to those seated at the bar.

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The SLA even tried — and failed — to contact the bar “to inform the establishment of requirements before the inspection,” phoning the bar “to discuss the complaints received.”

But an employee hung up while the examiner was reading out a list of violations.

The move comes as colleges in the Empire State and across the nation have seen a spike in coronavirus cases as students have returned to campuses for the fall semester.

Upstate’s own SUNY Oneonta became the first public college to be shut down and forced to transition to an entirely remote semester following an explosion of COVID-19 cases earlier this month.

Two hundred and one liquor licenses have been swiped by the state since March, 1,084 charges filed against bars and restaurants for alleged COVID-19 reopening requirements and social distancing violations as well as thousands of compliance checks reported.

Filed under andrew cuomo ,  bars ,  college ,  Coronavirus in NY ,  state liquor authority ,  suny ,  9/18/20

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