Australia’s daily coronavirus tally falls to lowest in more than 3 months

Victoria police officers patrol through a shopping center following an anti-coronavirus lockdown protest in Melbourne, Australia on Sept. 20, 2020. (AAP Image via Reuters)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Australia’s daily coronavirus tally falls to lowest in more than 3 months

  • 16 new infections are Australia’s smallest daily jump since June 14
  • Bulk of the new cases once again came from southeastern Victoria state

SYDNEY: Australia reported on Monday its smallest daily increase in new coronavirus infections in more than three months, but authorities in the nation’s virus hotspot of Victoria said they could not hasten the easing of curbs.
The 16 new infections are Australia’s smallest daily jump since June 14, while two additional deaths were reported.
“This light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer every day,” Nick Coatsworth, the chief deputy medical officer told reporters in Canberra, the capital.
The bulk of the new cases once again came from southeastern Victoria state, the epicenter of Australia’s second wave of infections, where 11 people tested positive over the last day, down from a daily record of 725 in early August.
However, it was too soon to hasten the timetable for removing curbs, the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said.
“If circumstances change, if we find ourselves ahead of schedule, not for one day, but in a manifest sense, common sense always guides us,” Andrews told reporters in the state capital of Melbourne.
Nightly curfews are among the measures clamped on the city in one of the world’s toughest lockdowns, but state officials have said building sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses and childcare facilities can reopen on Sept. 28 if the two-week average keeps below 50. Now it is below 35.
The bulk of Victoria’s restrictions could be lifted in late October if its two-week average stays below five, a target Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticized as too punitive and costly to the national economy.
Australia is battling its first recession in 30 years, while unemployment in July hit a 22-year high as virus curbs paralyzed businesses.
The Victoria outbreak has also closed off prospects for travel between Australia and New Zealand to resume soon.
Australia barred international travelers in March, except for citizens and permanent residents, but had said after a dent in the first virus outbreak that it would look to resume travel to New Zealand this year.
However, the chief executive of flag carrier Air New Zealand said quarantine-free travel between the neighbors was unlikely to resume for at least six months more.
The Victoria curbs have prevented a second wave of national infection, however.
Victoria has contributed almost 75 percent of Australia’s tally of nearly 27,000 infections and roughly 90 percent of its 851 deaths.
The most populous state of New South Wales reported four new cases in the past 24 hours, three of them already in hotel quarantine after returning from overseas.
Northeastern Queensland state also reported one new infection in hotel quarantine.


Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

Updated 24 October 2020

Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

  • There has been an upsurge in violence between Taliban and Afghan forces in the country
  • The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, opening up a path toward withdrawing American troops from the conflict

KABUL: A suicide bomber struck near an education centre in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least 18 people in the latest attack to rock the conflict-wracked country.
Violence on the ground has spiked in recent weeks despite the Taliban and the Afghan government holding peace talks in Qatar to end the country's grinding war.
The suicide attack, which also wounded 57, happened late afternoon at the centre, which offers training and courses for students in higher education in a western district of Kabul.
"A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre," Tareq Arian, spokesman for the interior ministry, said in a statement.
"But he was identified by the centre's guards after which he detonated his explosives in an alley."
He said the attack had left at least 18 people dead and 57 wounded.
"I was standing about 100 metres from the centre when a big blast knocked me down," said local resident Ali Reza, who had gone to hospital with his cousin who was wounded in the blast.
"Dust and smoke was all around me. All those killed and wounded were students who wanted to enter the centre."
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
Residents in several districts of western Kabul belong to the minority Shiite Hazara community, often targeted by Daesh militants. 
In the past, extremists have targeted several education centres and other facilities in the area.
In May, a group of gunmen launched a brazen daylight attack on a hospital in west Kabul that left several mothers dead. The gunmen were shot dead after hours of fighting with security forces.