Australia suffers ‘disturbing’ COVID-19 surge, New South Wales curbs wedding parties

Residents queue outside a coronavirus testing venue at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne on July 16, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 17 July 2020

Australia suffers ‘disturbing’ COVID-19 surge, New South Wales curbs wedding parties

  • Victoria outbreak led to Australia posting its second biggest one-day rise in new COVID-19 infections
  • Victoria’s neighbors have closed inter-state borders and renewed social distancing restrictions

SYDNEY: Australia’s Victoria state reported a record daily increase in COVID-19 cases on Friday while neighboring New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities struggle to contain a new wave of infections.
Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people in the country’s second most populous state into a partial lockdown for more than a week, said it has found 428 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, most from community transmission.
The Victoria outbreak led to Australia posting its second biggest one-day rise in new COVID-19 infections, with 438 cases on Friday. It was largest 24-hour spike since late March, when most cases detected in Australia were people returning from overseas.
“These are large numbers today, that is disturbing,” Australia’s acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told reporters in Canberra before striking a more upbeat note.
“Be patient... we are starting to get on top of the situation in Victoria.”
The surge in new cases reinforced expectations that Victoria will implement tougher restrictions on residents.
“We are in the fight of our lives,” Victoria state’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told reporters in Melbourne.
The state has already extended a ban on international arrivals by three weeks to at least Aug. 8, Melbourne Airport said.
Stricter restrictions would inevitably crimp economic activity in a country facing its first recession in nearly three decades. Data released on Thursday showed unemployment at a 22-year high.
Australia has recorded just over 11,000 cases of COVID-19.
The death toll rose to 116 after the death of three people in Victoria on Friday, still well below many other countries.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government will provide any assistance needed, as he urged against panic.
“We would not have expected to see the results of the lockdown measures put in place in Victoria as yet,” Morrison told reporters.
Australia and New Zealand had hoped to open their borders to each other in September, but the start of any “travel bubble” appears to be delayed.
Amid fears of a national second wave, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews urged residents to wear masks when outside, having previously only asked those around Melbourne, the state capital, to cover their face.
Victoria’s neighbors have closed inter-state borders and renewed social distancing restrictions.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, said it has found eight cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, mostly from community transmissions believed to have emanated from Victoria.
NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said new restrictions will be imposed from next week.
Funerals and places of worship will be allowed no more than 100 people. Venues must also ensure they have 4 square meters of space per patron.
Weddings in the state will be capped at 150 people, Berejiklian said, and they must remain seated.
“No dancing, no singing, no mingling,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Less than a month ago, Australia was widely heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19.
But security lapses in Victoria led to people returning from overseas spreading the virus, prompting an inquiry into how the state went from the brink of eradicating the virus to soaring infection numbers.
State Premier Andrews is under mounting pressure, with one of Australia’s biggest selling tabloid newspapers running a front page with the headline: “Dan-made disaster.”


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.”