Australia locks down millions as US struggles

Brazil president announces positive coronavirus test

Agence France-Presse . Sydney | Published: 00:56, Jul 08,2020


Australia on Tuesday ordered millions of people locked down in its second-biggest city to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, as nations across the planet scrambled to stop the rampaging pandemic.

While some countries are worried about second waves of infections, the worst-hit — the United States — was still ‘knee-deep’ in its first, its top expert warned, with cases also surging in India and Brazil.

Global infections have topped 11.6 million with more than 5,38,000 fatalities, and the lingering threat was illustrated by Australia — which had largely suppressed its outbreak — locking down five million people  in Melbourne to fight a recent spike.

‘We can’t pretend’ the crisis is over, said Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state, after its capital Melbourne reported 191 new cases in 24 hours.

‘These are unsustainably high numbers... There is simply no alternative (to the lockdown) other than thousands and thousands of cases and potentially more.’

The restrictions in the Melbourne metropolitan area would begin at midnight Wednesday and last at least six weeks, while Victoria state will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country a day earlier.

Melbourne residents are worried the lockdown will create further economic hardship.

‘I just started this job last week and the new restrictions mean I’ll be out of a job and out of a pay cheque again,’ Hotel Lincoln bartender Phoebe Askham told local broadcaster 7News.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro announced on Tuesday he had tested positive for the coronavirus but said he was feeling ‘perfectly well’ and had only mild symptoms.

The far right leader has caused huge controversy in Brazil for repeatedly flouting containment measures and minimising the risk of the virus, which has killed 65,000 people in the South American giant and infected 1.6 million.

The United States is still dealing with its first coronavirus wave, warned Anthony Fauci, its top infectious disease expert.

Officials have said hospitals in some parts of the country are in danger of being overwhelmed, with many states hit particularly hard after they eased virus restrictions.

‘We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,’ Fauci said Monday, adding that the US never managed to suppress infections to a manageable level before reopening like some European nations.

‘We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we’re surging back up. So it’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.’

The US death toll hit 1,30,000 on Monday, with confirmed infections fast approaching three million.

Some mayors have said their cities exited lockdown too early, as president Donald Trump tried to downplay the severity of the crisis, instead prioritising economic reopening.

But in the latest example of the cost to people’s normal lives, the US government said it would not allow foreign students to remain if all their classes are moved online because of the virus.

India’s financial capital Mumbai opened four new coronavirus field hospitals on Tuesday — including one at a horseracing track — as the nationwide death toll jumped past 20,000.

Hospitals in densely populated cities such as  Mumbai and Delhi are struggling to cope with the epidemic, and the country now has around 7,20,000 infections — the world’s third-highest.

The Mumbai region, which accounts for about a quarter of India’s 20,100 deaths, has suffered a new surge in infections, forcing authorities to build makeshift hospitals and quarantine facilities.

Schools, hotels, a planetarium and a stadium used to host US NBA games last year have all been repurposed, and on Tuesday four new field hospitals — including 700 beds inside the Mahalaxmi horseracing venue — were opened.

Around the world, governments are struggling to balance the need to reopen economies wrecked by weeks of lockdown measures against the risk of new infections.

Iran, the country with the Middle East’s worst outbreak, announces 200 more deaths, its highest single-day death toll. Its previous record was on Sunday.

In China, nearly 11 million students began taking the gruelling annual college entrance exam known as Gaokao on Tuesday following a month-long delay.

Students and invigilators had to track their health during the 14 days prior to the exam. Students from high-risk areas have to wear masks during the tests.

Beijing reports zero new cases for the first time since the emergence of a cluster in the Chinese capital in June.

But in Kenya, primary and secondary school children were told that their academic year was over and there would be no exams.

Dubai on Tuesday closed its only field hospital set up at a convention centre to treat coronavirus cases after the last patient, a Japanese national, walked out in good health.

The Gulf state has so far reported 52,600 coronavirus cases including 326 deaths and 41,714 recoveries.

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