Australia has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing its coronavirus outbreak — with one exception.
The southeastern 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 its outbreak seemed to have passed.
But as most of the country emerges from quarantine, the virus has resumed spreading at an alarming rate in Victoria’s capital, Melbourne. The city is buckling down with more extreme and divisive measures that have ignited anger and arguments over who is to blame.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that 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,” Andrews said.
About 3,000 residents of nine public housing highrise 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, with the result that businesses and households in some areas face restrictions while ones across the street from them do not.
The nation of 26 million people has recorded about 8,500 cases and only 106 deaths from COVID-19.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 5:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 105,935 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 69,570 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,738.
B.C.’s provincial health officer says the controversy over airborne transmission of the coronavirus has been overblown, after hundreds of scientists signed a letter calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations.
WATCH | Scientists call on WHO to update guidance on airborne transmission of coronavirus:
In an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have reportedly argued particles smaller than what has previously been reported can carry the novel coronavirus and infect people. According to a story in the New York Times, those scientists want the global health body to begin treating the novel coronavirus as an airborne illness.
But Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested Monday that the letter was designed “to foment a bit of controversy,” and the disagreement is part of an ongoing discussion about how coronaviruses and other illnesses like influenza are spread.
“I actually think it’s a little bit of a tempest in a teapot in that we all agree on the extremes and we’re fussing a little bit about how much we need to focus on the bits in the middle,” Henry said during Monday’s coronavirus briefing.
With airborne viruses like the measles and smallpox, tiny disease-carrying particles can float in the air for hours, even travelling down hallways and through ventilation systems.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 200,000 as the country continues to post some of the highest daily numbers in the world.
The health ministry reported 8,971 new cases, bringing the total to 205,721.
Nearly one third are in the new hot spot of Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.
The African continent overall has more than 477,000 confirmed cases.
India’s death toll from the coronavirus has passed 20,000, with case numbers surging past 700,000.
The country reported 467 new deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 20,160. It also recorded 22,252 new infections, increasing the total to 719,665.
The rate of new virus infections and deaths in India are now rising at their fastest pace. Health officials fear the number of deaths could rise significantly in the coming weeks.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, is the third worst-affected nation in the world. Only the United States and Brazil have had more cases.
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 two weeks.
Housing Minister Megan Woods says 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.
China on Tuesday reported eight new confirmed coronavirus cases, all of them brought from outside the country, with no new deaths, as almost 11 million students gathered to take the crucial national university entrance exam.
The National Health Council reported that 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 the novel coronavirus since it 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, physical distancing and the wearing of masks.