Australia cheers end of Melbourne lockdown

Australia cheers end of Melbourne lockdown
Above, diners at the popular Melbourne restaurant Chin Chin on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 after restaurants, cafes and bars were allowed to open and outdoor contact sports resumed. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 28 October 2020

Australia cheers end of Melbourne lockdown

Australia cheers end of Melbourne lockdown
  • Contrasts with deepening gloom in Europe where France and Germany were set to reintroduce curbs
  • Coronavirus has infected close to 44 million people worldwide, with well over 1.1 million deaths

MELBOURNE: Champagne corks popped in Australia’s second-biggest city as a months-long coronavirus lockdown ended on Wednesday, contrasting with deepening gloom in Europe where France and Germany were set to reintroduce curbs.
The pandemic has unleashed vast devastation across the global economy and in the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment, countries are being forced to impose widely unpopular COVID-19 restrictions that have sparked violent clashes in Italy.
Much of the United States — the worst-hit nation in the world — is also bracing for a tough winter, but there was exhilaration and relief in Melbourne as its five million people were able to return to shops and restaurants after months at home.
“We’ve really been awaiting this day for very long,” department store manager Magda Combrinck said. “It’s a big day for us.”
Australia’s control of its outbreak stood in stark contrast to the surging virus in Europe, with Germany regularly reporting 10,000 new infections every day, daily cases in France topping 50,000, and hospitals in Belgium nearing capacity.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to push for lockdown measures in crisis talks with the country’s regional leaders Wednesday. The proposed new restrictions include closing restaurants and bars and putting strict limits on private and public gatherings while keeping schools, daycares and shops open, according to the Bild daily.
Media reports in France, meanwhile, said President Emmanuel Macron may extend the hours of an existing curfew, with possibly a full lockdown on weekends, or order targeted lockdowns in the hardest-hit regions.
And in Russia, an order making masks mandatory at public gatherings, on public transport and in elevators is set to come into force on Wednesday, state news agency TASS reported.
The new restrictions are likely to test the resolve and patience of many.
Anger has already boiled over in Italy, where thousands have protested in recent days against anti-coronavirus curbs.
Some of the rallies have turned violent, particularly in Milan and Turin on Monday night, where angry youths threw petrol bombs and stones at police cars and smashed up shop fronts.
The coronavirus has infected close to 44 million people worldwide, with well over 1.1 million deaths, and spurred breakneck efforts to develop treatments and vaccines to help restore normality.
Pharma giant Pfizer expressed measured optimism Tuesday about the prospect of a vaccine becoming available this year, saying it could supply some 40 million doses in the United States if clinical testing proceeds as expected and regulatory approval is granted.
But chief executive Albert Bourla said the company still had not reached key benchmarks in assessing vaccine efficacy.
“We have reached the last mile here,” he said. “So let’s all have the patience that’s required for something so important for public health and the global economy.”
Key data for the vaccine would not be released before next week’s US election, with President Donald Trump being flayed by his challenger Joe Biden over his handling of the pandemic.
The US is reporting tens of thousands of new cases every day, with the overall caseload fast approaching nine million. Around 225,000 people have died.
The economic costs and resulting political pressure have forced many countries to ease curbs.
India imposed a strict lockdown in March, but had to loosen restrictions to revive its battered economy. It is now the second-most infected nation on the planet, with nearly eight million cases and tens of thousands of new infections detected daily.
On Wednesday, millions of Indians turned out to vote in the state polls in Bihar — the world’s biggest election since the coronavirus emerged, with 70 million eligible voters.
Booths were packed, and many ignored government advice on wearing masks and social distancing.
“I am a little afraid because corona(virus) is not a small disease,” said Nidhi Kumari, a 21-year-old student.
“But there are precautions at polling booths. They are giving sanitizers and gloves.”


Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Updated 17 min 14 sec ago

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot
  • The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers
  • Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight

MOSCOW: Moscow began distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics on Saturday, marking Russia’s first mass vaccination against the disease, the city’s coronavirus task force said.
The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.
“You are working at an educational institution and have top-priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, free of charge,” read a phone text message received by one Muscovite, an elementary school teacher, early on Saturday and seen by Reuters.
Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before and well above the daily tallies of around 700 seen in early September.
“Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab — teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his personal website on Friday.
The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60. People with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a respiratory illness for the past two weeks are barred from vaccination.
Russia has developed two COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and another developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for the both yet to be completed.
Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.
The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose is expected to be given 21 days after the first.
Moscow closed down all public places including parks and cafes, with exception for delivery, in late March, with police patrolling the streets looking for whose violating the rules. Restrictions were eased from mid-June, however.
Russia as a whole reported 28,782 new infections on Saturday, its highest daily tally, pushing the national total to 2,431,731, the fourth-highest in the world.
In October, certain restrictions such as remote learning for some secondary school children and a 30% limit on the number of workers allowed in offices were introduced again.