Australia’s daily coronavirus tally falls to lowest in more than 3 months

Victoria police officers patrol through a shopping center following an anti-coronavirus lockdown protest in Melbourne, Australia on Sept. 20, 2020. (AAP Image via Reuters)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Australia’s daily coronavirus tally falls to lowest in more than 3 months

  • 16 new infections are Australia’s smallest daily jump since June 14
  • Bulk of the new cases once again came from southeastern Victoria state

SYDNEY: Australia reported on Monday its smallest daily increase in new coronavirus infections in more than three months, but authorities in the nation’s virus hotspot of Victoria said they could not hasten the easing of curbs.
The 16 new infections are Australia’s smallest daily jump since June 14, while two additional deaths were reported.
“This light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer every day,” Nick Coatsworth, the chief deputy medical officer told reporters in Canberra, the capital.
The bulk of the new cases once again came from southeastern Victoria state, the epicenter of Australia’s second wave of infections, where 11 people tested positive over the last day, down from a daily record of 725 in early August.
However, it was too soon to hasten the timetable for removing curbs, the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said.
“If circumstances change, if we find ourselves ahead of schedule, not for one day, but in a manifest sense, common sense always guides us,” Andrews told reporters in the state capital of Melbourne.
Nightly curfews are among the measures clamped on the city in one of the world’s toughest lockdowns, but state officials have said building sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses and childcare facilities can reopen on Sept. 28 if the two-week average keeps below 50. Now it is below 35.
The bulk of Victoria’s restrictions could be lifted in late October if its two-week average stays below five, a target Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticized as too punitive and costly to the national economy.
Australia is battling its first recession in 30 years, while unemployment in July hit a 22-year high as virus curbs paralyzed businesses.
The Victoria outbreak has also closed off prospects for travel between Australia and New Zealand to resume soon.
Australia barred international travelers in March, except for citizens and permanent residents, but had said after a dent in the first virus outbreak that it would look to resume travel to New Zealand this year.
However, the chief executive of flag carrier Air New Zealand said quarantine-free travel between the neighbors was unlikely to resume for at least six months more.
The Victoria curbs have prevented a second wave of national infection, however.
Victoria has contributed almost 75 percent of Australia’s tally of nearly 27,000 infections and roughly 90 percent of its 851 deaths.
The most populous state of New South Wales reported four new cases in the past 24 hours, three of them already in hotel quarantine after returning from overseas.
Northeastern Queensland state also reported one new infection in hotel quarantine.

Philippines military confirms death of militant leader

This photo taken on March 8, 2018 shows Philippine soldiers standing next to their armoured personnel carriers as they man a checkpoint along a highway near the clash site between government troops and militants in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP)
Updated 59 min 6 sec ago

Philippines military confirms death of militant leader

  • Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama fatally wounded in clash with troops in Mindanao in early September
  • He was a close associate of the slain ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, who in 2016 was designated Daesh emir in the Philippines

MANILA: Military authorities on Friday confirmed the death of Furuji Indama, senior leader of the Daesh-affiliated Abu Sayyaf militant group based on Basilan Island in the southern Philippines.

Indama, who was wanted over his involvement in a string of deadly bombings and kidnappings, was fatally wounded in a clash with troops in Zamboanga Sibugay province, Mindanao, on Sept. 9, along with several other fighters.

Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan confirmed Indama’s death, adding: “We have been monitoring his family — they already know he is dead.”

Vinluan said that local officials have offered a cash reward to anyone who could pinpoint the location of Indama’s remains.

The militant leader is believed to have been buried on an island in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Vinluan said the ASG leader had sent text messages to relatives asking them to pray as he was severely wounded and “might not last long.”

The following day Indama’s cellphone “could no longer be reached.”

Idama’s death was announced following the killing of another faction member in a clash with government forces in Basilan province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Indama was a close associate of the slain ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was designated as the Daesh emir of the Philippines in 2016.

After Hapilon was killed during the 2017 siege of Marawi City, Indama was touted as a likely replacement. However, a report by the US Department of Defense later named Sulu-based ASG leader Hadjan Sawadjaan as the new acting Daesh emir.

Indama is believed to have plotted a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan, that killed 11 people in 2018.

In April 2016, Hapilon and Indama led 150 Abu Sayyaf fighters in an attack on government forces in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, killing at least 18 soldiers and wounding more than 50 others.

Indama has been wanted for his involvement in the May 2001 kidnaping of 20 people, mostly foreigners, from the affluent Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.

One of the hostages, a US national, Guillermo Sobero, was beheaded by his captors. Officials said the ASG leader’s death is expected to leave the militant group in disarray. Many members have recently surrendered to government forces.

In July, the military said that Sawadjaan had been killed, but his death remains unconfirmed.