A long queue of cars waits at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site located in Melbourne. AFP
Authorities will lock down more than 300,000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from late Wednesday to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases in Australia's second most populous state.
Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7,920 cases, 104 deaths and fewer than 400 active cases, but the recent jump has stoked fears of a second wave of COVID-19, echoing concerns expressed in other countries.
Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday, a major milestone in the spread of a disease that has killed more than half a million people in seven months.
From midnight, more than 30 suburbs in Australia's second-biggest city will return to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic. That means residents will be confined to home except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.
The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz that authorities hope will extend to half the population of the area affected, and for which borders will be patrolled, authorities said. The measures come as curbs ease across the rest of the state of Victoria, with restaurants, gyms and cinemas reopening in recent weeks.
Victoria recorded 73 fresh cases on Tuesday from 20,682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday. State premier Daniel Andrews warned on Wednesday that the return of broader restrictions across the city remained a possibility.
"If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission ... across metropolitan Melbourne," Andrews said at a briefing. "Ultimately if I didn't shut down those postcodes I'd be shutting down all postcodes. We want to avoid that."
Victoria's spike in cases has been linked to staff members at hotels housing returned travellers for which quarantine protocols were not strictly followed. Victorian state authorities have announced an investigation into the matter.Reuters
More than five million residents of Melbourne will be locked down for six weeks after coronavirus cases surged in Australia's second-biggest city, authorities announced Tuesday.
Other states and territories have recorded few or zero cases in recent weeks and are continuing to reopen their economies, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison told residents not to become complacent.
As greater Melbourne passed the halfway point of a lockdown initially intended to last six weeks, Premier Daniel Andrews said the state would be stuck in "limbo" unless it could cut the infection rate.
Despite a lockdown that began in early July, Melbourne has continued to report hundreds of new cases daily, and authorities said the city's residents would now face a curfew from 8 pm to 5 am for the next six weeks.
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The UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting amid a diplomatic push to end the fighting, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Israel would continue its military onslaught on the coastal enclave “as long as necessary.”