The Australian state of Victoria has declared a state of disaster and placed Melbourne, the country’s second biggest city, under nighttime curfew as it grapples with hundreds of “mystery cases” of coronavirus.
As countries around the world including the US, the UK and Spain reimpose varying degrees of lockdowns, the Victorian premier announced that the state had to impose the highest level of restrictions in order to overcome a stubbornly high number of cases that cannot be traced.
Daniel Andrews said that without the tougher, six-week so-called stage 4 lockdown, the state risked having six months of milder stage 3 restrictions that would likely not contain the virus and instead overwhelm the health service.
Under the stage 4 lockdown, no one will be allowed to venture further than 5km from their home; only person per household per day will be allowed to go shopping; only one hour of exercise will be permitted; and Melbourne faced a curfew from 8pm to 5am.
The state of disaster declaration “means that police and others have additional powers”, Andrews said. “We can suspend various acts of the parliament and make sure that we get the job done and there’s no question about the enforceability and the way in which new rules will operate.”
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, faces a “high alert” as it attempts to contain the coronavirus. Its premier has urged people to wear masks on public transport and while shopping.
The media will be barred from the US Republican party national convention where Donald Trump is set to be renominated as presidential candidate later this month, with a spokeswoman citing concerns about meeting coronavirus restrictions.
The party conventions are normally huge media events but reporters will not be allowed to attend the gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina later this month when 336 delegates will select Trump to run for a second term in November.
“Given the health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina, we are planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed [to] press Friday, August 21–Monday, August 24,” a convention spokeswoman said.
Trump has attacked as “wrong” claims by his administration’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, that the huge level of Covid-19 cases in the US was due to an insufficiently strong response by federal and state governments.
The president repeated his claim that the reason the US has the highest number of cases in the world – more than 4.5 million – was because it had done more testing than any other country.
There have now been almost 17.8 million confirmed cases around the world and more than 683,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Thousands of protesters have gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to call for the resignation of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the coronavirus and corruption. Demonstrators also descended on Netanyahu’s beach house in the central coast region to vent their anger.
It was the largest turnout in weeks of protests that have coalesced around Netanyahu’s alleged bungling of the Covid-19 response and also a weak economy. After moving quickly to contain the virus last spring, many believe Israel reopened its economy too quickly, leading to a surge in cases.
Seven health officials from China were due to arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday, the first members of a 60-person team that will carry out widespread testing for Covid-19 in the territory as the global financial hub races to halt a third wave of illness.
Teachers unions and scientists in the UK have called on ministers to convince them that it is safe to reopen schools next month as planned when the new academic year is due to begin.
A leading government adviser has suggested that pubs should be closed in England in order for communities to more safely reopen schools.
Mexico reported yet another new daily high for confirmed cases of 9,556, raising its total cases so far to almost 425,000. The country also posted 784 more confirmed Covid-19 deaths, raising its accumulated total to 47,472, and passing the UK as the third highest tally in the world.
The head of Mexico’s efforts to fight the pandemic, assistant health secretary Hugo López-Gatell, has resisted calls to resign.
In the Philippines, president Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his coronavirus task force to address the concerns of more than a million doctors and nurses who called for reviving strict lockdowns after a third day of record infections. But the government cast doubt on the request of the frontline healthcare workers to revive strict lockdowns of the populous area in and around the capital Manila, Reuters reported.