Anger over resumption of lockdown measures in Melbourne


Australia has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing its coronavirus outbreak – with the exception of Melbourne.

The south-eastern state of Victoria had some of the nation’s toughest pandemic measures and was among the most reluctant to lift its restrictions when the worst of the outbreak seemed to have passed.

But as most of the country emerges from pandemic restrictions, the virus has resumed spreading at an alarming rate in Victoria’s capital, and the nation’s second-largest city.

Melbourne is buckling down with more extreme and divisive measures that have ignited anger and arguments over who is to blame.

Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews said the entire city and some of its surrounding areas will be locked down again from Wednesday night under tougher restrictions than were imposed during the first shutdown that started in March.

“We are in many respects in a more precarious, challenging and potentially tragic position now than we were some months ago,” Mr Andrews said.

About 3,000 residents of nine public housing high-rise buildings were given just an hour’s notice at the weekend before being prohibited from leaving their apartments for at least five days.

“The amount of police officers makes us feel like we’re criminals,” said a resident of one of the buildings, Nada Osman. “It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s like we’re caged in.”

Forty suburbs that are virus hot spots have been locked down by postal code since last week, meaning that businesses and households in some areas face restrictions while ones across the street from them do not.

New Zealand’s national carrier has put a temporary hold on new bookings for flights into the country while the government tries to find enough quarantined hotel rooms for people returning home.

Air New Zealand says the hold will last for three weeks and it is also trying to better align flights with the hotel locations.

New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the coronavirus but is still getting cases at the border. For the most part, only residents and citizens are able to fly into the country and must remain in a quarantined hotel room for 14 days.

Housing minister Megan Woods said the government is currently housing nearly 6,000 people in 28 quarantine facilities and is seeing rapid growth in the number of returning residents as the pandemic worsens globally.

In China, eight new confirmed cases were reported, all of them brought from outside the country, with no new deaths.

The news comes as almost 11 million students gathered to take the crucial national university entrance exam.

The National Health Council reported 403 people remained in treatment for Covid-19 while 121 people were in isolation being monitored as suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 83,565 cases of Covid-19 since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

The gruelling two-day university entrance exam can be a key determinant of a student’s future and was pushed back weeks as China worked to bring down infections.

It is believed to be the first mass gathering event since the virus outbreak and administrators are enforcing strict rules to prevent infections, including proof of wellness, social distancing and the wearing of masks.

A waiter waits for customers in protective gear amid the pandemic in Sao Paulo

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has said he will be tested for Covid-19 after having an X-ray of his lungs on Monday. He did not say whether he was showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

Mr Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly downplayed the risks of the disease, told supporters outside the presidential residence in Brasilia that he is feeling well.

Brazil’s supreme court published documents in May showing that Mr Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with US leader Donald Trump in Florida.

Mr Bolsonaro has repeatedly appeared in public without wearing a mask, shaking hands with supporters and mingling with crowds.

He has fiercely criticised local leaders’ restrictions on activity and said the economic impact of shutdowns would inflict more hardship than the virus.

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

In the US, an outbreak in the California Legislature has indefinitely delayed the state Assembly’s return to work from its scheduled summer recess.

Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon’s office confirmed five people who work in the Assembly have tested positive. They include assemblywoman Autumn Burke, who is believed to have contracted the virus while on the assembly floor last month.

Mr Rendon said the assembly will stay in recess until further notice. He said the decision is to protect legislators, staff and the public.

The Legislature shut down for nearly two months earlier this year during the pandemic.

In the state of Georgia, the mayor of Atlanta revealed she has tested positive for Covid-19.

Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted that she had no symptoms. The mayor has risen to prominence during the pandemic, having criticised state governor Brian Kemp on his slowness to order Georgians to shelter in place, and for lifting the order too quickly.

Ms Bottoms has also supported protests against police brutality and racial injustice that have been widespread in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the pandemic can provide new opportunities for the so-called Islamic State extremist group (IS), al-Qaida and their affiliates as well as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and hate groups.

The UN chief said it is too early to fully assess the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on terrorism but all these groups seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, failures in governing, and other grievances to advance their aims.

Mr Guterres said that IS, which once controlled a vast area of Syria and Iraq, is trying to reassert itself in both countries.

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