Major Australian city in coronavirus ‘limbo’ as outbreak rages

Medical workers evacuate a resident from the Epping Gardens aged care facility in the Melbourne suburb of Epping on July 30, 2020, as the city battles fresh outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Major Australian city in coronavirus ‘limbo’ as outbreak rages

  • Elsewhere in the country other states and territories have reported zero or just handfuls of cases for weeks
  • Victoria state — of which Melbourne is the capital — reported over 600 cases Friday and eight deaths

MELBOURNE, Australia: Australian officials were eyeing tighter restrictions in the nation’s second-biggest city Friday as hundreds more coronavirus cases were recorded despite more than three weeks in lockdown.
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.
“We’ve stopped it from getting completely out of control... but we haven’t been able to suppress it sufficiently,” Andrews told media in Melbourne.
Without a drop in infections, there was an “absolute certainty” any rollback of restrictions would see virus cases spiral out of control, he said.
“It’s almost impossible for us to see businesses recover and survive unless and until we get these numbers down.”
Victoria state — of which Melbourne is the capital — reported over 600 cases Friday and eight deaths, a drop after recording the nation’s highest daily toll Thursday with 18 deaths and 723 cases.
Half of the new deaths were connected to aged care homes in the city.
The state’s top health official said any increase in restrictions had “really significant consequences” but admitted tougher rules were now being considered, including a strict lockdown and widespread business closures successfully used in neighboring New Zealand.
New Zealand has not recorded a locally transmitted case from an unknown source in over 90 days and only 22 deaths in a population of five million.
Australia’s cases ticked toward 17,000 on Friday, recording 196 deaths in a population of 25 million.
The outbreak comes as Muslims around the country mark Eid Al-Adha — with Andrews admitting the religious holiday would look incredibly different this year for Victorian worshippers.
In Sydney, restrictions on numbers allowed inside the Gallipoli mosque caused large queues on Friday morning, with all worshippers wearing masks as the city battles growing clusters.
New South Wales state recorded 21 new cases on Friday.
Elsewhere in the country other states and territories have reported zero or just handfuls of cases for weeks, relaxing restrictions but banning visitors from the hotspots of Victoria and greater Sydney.


India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

Updated 21 min 56 sec ago

India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

  • Disease trajectory varies widely across India with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas

NEW DELHI: As India hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, crossing 2 million cases and more than 41,000 deaths, community health volunteers went on strike complaining they were ill-equipped to respond to the wave of infection in rural areas.
Even as India has maintained comparatively low mortality rates, the disease trajectory varies widely across the country with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas, where resources are scarce or nonexistent.
The Health Ministry reported 62,538 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s total to 2,027,074. Also, 886 people died, for a total of 41,585.
The ministry said that recoveries were also growing. India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2 percent is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries. The rate in the US is 3.3 percent, and in Brazil 3.4 percent, Johns Hopkins University figures showed.
The caseload in the world’s second-most populous country has quickly expanded since the government began lifting a months-long lockdown hoping to jump-start a moribund economy. India is projecting negative economic growth in 2020.
Life cautiously returned to the streets of the capital of New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, which appear to have passed their peaks.
But state and local governments elsewhere in India were reimposing lockdowns after sharp spikes in cases.
Around 900,000 members of an all-female community health force began a two-day strike on Friday, protesting that they were being roped in to help with contact tracing, personal hygiene drives and in quarantine centers, but weren’t given personal protective equipment or additional pay, according to organizer A.R. Sindhu.
The health workers, known as Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHA, which means ‘hope’ in several Indian languages, have been deployed in each village on behalf of the Health Ministry. Their work ranges from escorting children to immunization clinics to counseling women on childbirth.
But while their regular work hasn’t reduced, they are increasingly being involved by state governments in the fight against the pandemic, said Sindhu.
“But ASHA workers don’t have masks or PPEs or even sanitizers,” she said.
She added that although the work has increased and become more dangerous, their salaries remain static at roughly 2,000 rupees ($27) per month And the families of at least a dozen women who she said died from the virus didn’t receive compensation from India’s federal insurance for front-line health care workers because their deaths were not recorded as COVID-19 deaths.
Manisha Verma, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.