Australia to lock down 300,000 in Melbourne suburbs after coronavirus spike

More than 30 suburbs in Australia’s second-biggest city will return to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 01 July 2020

Australia to lock down 300,000 in Melbourne suburbs after coronavirus spike

  • Recent surge has stoked fears of a second wave of COVID-19
  • Lockdown restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz

MELBOURNE: Authorities will lock down around 300,000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from late on Wednesday to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases in Australia’s second most populous state.
Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7,830 cases and 104 deaths, but the recent surge has stoked fears of a second wave of COVID-19, echoing concerns expressed in other countries.
Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday, a major milestone in the spread of a disease that has killed more than half a million people in seven months.
From midnight, more than 30 suburbs in Australia’s second-biggest city will return to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic. That means residents will be confined to home except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.
The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz that authorities hope will extend to half the population of the area affected, and for which borders will be patrolled, authorities said. The measures come as curbs ease across the rest of the state of Victoria, with restaurants, gyms and cinemas reopening in recent weeks.
Victoria recorded 73 fresh cases on Tuesday from 20,682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday. State premier Daniel Andrews warned on Wednesday that the return of broader restrictions across city remained a possibility.
“If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission ... across metropolitan Melbourne,” Andrews said at a briefing. “Ultimately if I didn’t shut down those postcodes I’d be shutting down all postcodes. We want to avoid that.”
Victoria’s spike in cases has been linked to staff members at hotels housing returned travelers for which quarantine protocols were not strictly followed. Victorian state authorities have announced an investigation into the matter.
Some other Australian states and territories are preparing to open borders, but applying limits and quarantine measures to citizens of Victoria as the school holiday season gets under way.
South Australia, the country’s fifth most populous state, has had just three new cases in the past month. But citing the spike in coronavirus infections, on Tuesday it canceled its scheduled reopening to other parts of the nation.
New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, has stopped short of closing its borders to all Victorians, but those holidaying from hotspot areas — not permitted under NSW rules — can be handed a fine of A$11,000 ($7,596) or jailed if they are detected, state authorities said.
The delays reopening internal borders cast doubts over a federal plan to set up “travel bubble” with neighboring New Zealand that would allow movement between the two countries.


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.”