Australia’s Victoria requires masks for Melbourne hit by COVID-19

Victoria became the first state in Australia to require masks for part of its population. Above, Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne. (AAP Image via Reuters)
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Updated 19 July 2020

Australia’s Victoria requires masks for Melbourne hit by COVID-19

  • Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined $140
  • Victoria is first state in Australia to require masks for part of its population

MELBOURNE: People in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria, Australia’s second most-populous state, marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday.
Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined A$200 ($140), said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.
Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people into a partial six-week lockdown on July 9, reported 363 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, after 217 cases the previous day.
“We’re going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time,” Andrews told a televised briefing.
“There’s no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus,” he said. Masks are “a simple thing, but it’s about changing habits, it’s about becoming a simple part of your routine.”
Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries or even some US states, but an outbreak of community transmission in Victoria has been growing, prompting authorities to impose stricter social distancing measures.
“Community transmission is difficult and challenging,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told a televised briefing. “That remains our single greatest threat.”
Three deaths from the COVID-19 disease were reported in Victoria on Sunday, bringing the total to 38 and raising Australia’s death toll to 122.
Victoria became the first state in Australia, a country of a loose federal system, to require masks for part of its population.
New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state that had moved to relax its social distancing guidelines earlier this month, has since moved to restrict again some social mingling as cases have been growing.
On Sunday, NSW reported 18 new infections, its highest in three months. The transmission rate in the state is higher than in Victoria, causing concerns.
“People are urged to avoid non-essential travel and gatherings,” NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McAnulty said in a video statement.
“Of particular concern is transmission in venues such as hotels and restaurants, the gym and social gatherings.”
About 60 people in Sydney face a fine of $1,000 each after attending a party Saturday night and breaking the public health guidelines of no more than 20 visitors to a home, police said.


Pompeo inks deal for US troop move from Germany to Poland

Updated 11 min 17 sec ago

Pompeo inks deal for US troop move from Germany to Poland

  • Some 4,500 US troops are currently based in Poland
  • Pompeo has used his Europe trip to warn the region’s young democracies about threats posed by Russia and China

WARSAW: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sealed a defense cooperation deal with Polish officials that will pave the way for the redeployment of American troops from Germany to Poland.
In Warsaw on Saturday at the end of a four-nation tour of central and eastern Europe, Pompeo and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that sets out the legal framework for the additional troop presence.
The pact supplements an existing NATO Status of Forces Agreement and allows for the enhancement and modernization of existing capabilities and facilities by granting US forces to access additional Polish military installations. It also sets out a formula for sharing the logistical and infrastructure costs of an expanded US presence in the country.
Some 4,500 US troops are currently based in Poland, but about 1,000 more are to be added, under a bilateral decision announced last year. Last month, in line with President Donald Trump’s demand to reduce troop numbers in Germany, the Pentagon announced that some 12,000 troops would be withdrawn from Germany with about 5,600 moving to other countries in Europe, including Poland.
In addition, several US military commands will be moved out of Germany, including the US Army V Corps overseas headquarters that will relocate to Poland next year.
Trump has long and loudly complained that Germany does not spend enough on defense and has repeatedly accused Germany of failing to pay NATO bills, which is a misstatement of the issue. NATO nations have pledged to dedicate 2 percent of their gross domestic product.
In addition, several US military commands will be moved out of Germany, including the US Army V Corps overseas headquarters that will relocate to Poland next year.
Saturday’s signing came just a day after the Trump administration suffered an embarrassing diplomatic loss at the United Nations when its proposal to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran was soundly defeated in a UN Security Council vote that saw only one country side with the US Pompeo will visit that country, the Dominican Republic, on Sunday for the inauguration of its new president.
Pompeo has used his Europe trip to warn the region’s young democracies about threats posed by Russia and China and has received a warm welcome. In Poland, the reception was particularly kind given the friendship between Trump and conservative Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was sworn in for a second five-year term earlier this month after a hotly contested election.
Many of Duda’s Law and Justice party’s policies have put Poland at odds with the European Union, which is concerned that government efforts to reshape the judiciary and other actions have eroded the rule of law and democracy in the EU member country.