Australia starts virus testing blitz to curb surge in Melbourne

Friday’s 30 new COVID-19 cases was the 10th straight day of double-digit rises in new cases in Melbourne. Above, signage for a testing facility in the Victorian state. (AAP Image via Reuters)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Australia starts virus testing blitz to curb surge in Melbourne

  • Officials reported another 30 new COVID-19 infections in the city overnight in a continuing outbreak

MELBOURNE: Health workers fanned out across suburbs of Melbourne Friday in a testing blitz aimed at choking off a surge in coronavirus cases in Australia’s second-biggest city.
Officials reported another 30 new COVID-19 infections in the city overnight in a continuing outbreak that has raised fears of a second wave in Australia, which looked like it had successfully contained the epidemic.
It was the 10th straight day of double-digit rises in new cases in Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state, while most other Australian regions have seen no or low single-digit new infections for weeks.
The outbreak has rattled people across Australia, with major supermarket chains on Friday re-imposing nationwide limits on purchases of toilet paper and paper towels to counter a surge in panic-buying not seen since the first days of the pandemic in March.
“Stop it, it’s ridiculous,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said when quizzed about the public rush on stores at a press conference.
The chains slapped the buying restrictions on stores in Victoria earlier this week, but extended them after noting excessive demand spreading to other states.
“While the demand is not at the same level as Victoria, we’re taking preventative action now to get ahead of any excessive buying this weekend and help maintain social distancing in our stores,” Woolworths Supermarkets said in a statement.
Around 200 soldiers were deploying to Melbourne over the weekend to help with the testing offensive in 10 suburb “hot spots,” where officials are going door-to-door to track the virus.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has set a goal of testing 100,000 people in 10 days in the targeted suburbs.
Around 20,000 tests were carried out in the first 24 hours of the effort, state deputy chief health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said on Friday.
Morrison’s chief health adviser played down the likelihood that the Melbourne outbreak would evolve into a broader “second wave” of the epidemic.
“We’re very likely to see more such outbreaks, not just in Victoria — it could be anywhere in the country,” said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.
“We’re prepared, we’re responding and we’re very, very comfortable with the way things are going.”
But the Melbourne outbreak has rattled officials elsewhere in Australia.
In neighboring New South Wales, officials said they would bar Victorians from attending professional sporting events when they begin allowing fans next week — a particularly stinging move in the sports-mad country.
Australia has recorded roughly 7,500 coronavirus cases and 104 deaths in a population of 25 million, with several regions believed to be effectively virus-free.


COVID-19 spread harder to control without common effort says French PM as daily cases double

Updated 11 August 2020

COVID-19 spread harder to control without common effort says French PM as daily cases double

  • French health authorities reported 1,397 new COVID-19 infections over 24 hours on Tuesday
  • New clusters have mushroomed as people let their hair down on holiday, families hold reunions and workers return to offices

PARIS: The renewed spread of coronavirus in France could become harder to control without a collective effort to stop a rise in the infection rate, its prime minister said on Tuesday.
The public was becoming careless, Jean Castex warned, after official data recorded nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday to Monday. The epidemic has now killed more than 30,300 people in France.
French health authorities reported 1,397 new COVID-19 infections over 24 hours on Tuesday, almost twice Monday’s tally.
The Health Ministry website said there were 15 new deaths in hospital due the disease, compared to an increase of 16 over a three-day period between Monday and Saturday,
“If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control,” Castex said during a visit to a hospital intensive care ward in southern France.
France’s 7-day moving average of new infections climbed to 1,640 on Monday from 1,056 on July 31. The 7-day measure reached a post lockdown low of 272 on May 27, a little over 2 weeks after the government eased one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
But as in most neighboring European countries, new clusters have mushroomed as people let their hair down on holiday, families hold reunions and workers return to offices and France is desperate to avoid another full-scale lockdown.
Britain has said it will not hesitate putting more countries on its quarantine list, including France, where hordes of Britons spend their summer vacations.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron held a video conference with top ministers from his Riviera summer retreat.
During the meeting, it was decided France would draw up new restrictions for the 20 largest cities to curb the rising infection rate and that a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be extended until Oct. 31.
Some cities have already taken action. Paris on Monday joined Toulouse, Lille, Biarritz and others in imposing a mandatory face mask order in crowded outdoor zones. They are already compulsory nationwide in shops and banks.
The prime minister said testing was “more than satisfactory,” with more than 600,000 tests being conducted weekly, but said more could still be done to target those with symptoms, the prime minister said.
Talking of the risk of another lockdown, Castex said: “no one wants to live through that again.”