Australian hot spot, South Korea hit new lows

AP – Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, yesterday recorded its lowest number of new infections in more than three months as the nation’s second-largest city, Melbourne, further eased its lockdown restrictions.

The easing of restrictions in Melbourne, the state capital, will allow most children to return to school from mid-October and send over 125,000 people back to work.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters his state was “so close to being able to take a really big step … towards that COVID-normal”, after only five new cases were recorded in the latest 24-hour period, the lowest number since June 12.

“We are so, so close, and what’s important now is that everyone keeps following the rules, keeps doing the right thing, keeps making that profound and critical contribution to these numbers getting low and staying low,” Andrews said.

The state also recorded three deaths yesterday, Andrews said.

A man looks at his smartphone while he is silhouetted at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

Melbourne and surrounding parts of rural Victoria were placed under strict lockdown measures on August 2, shuttering schools and non-essential businesses, imposing a nighttime curfew and prohibiting public gatherings.

The 9pm-5am curfew was lifted from yesterday, although residents still cannot travel over five kilometres from home.

Public gatherings of up to five people from a maximum of two households will be allowed, and daycare centres for children will also re-open.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 50 new cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily increase in nearly 50 days, a possible effect of strengthened social distancing measures that were employed to slow a major outbreak surrounding the capital region. Yesterday’s increase reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency was the lowest since August 11.

The country reported around 200 to 300 cases a day from mid-August to early September, a resurgence that forced officials to tighten social distancing restrictions in the Seoul area and elsewhere. Officials called for vigilance ahead of the Chuseok harvest festival that begins tomorrow.

They are pleading for people to stay home during a holiday when South Koreans typically travel to visit relatives, entertainment establishments deemed “high-risk” will be shut in Seoul during the holiday period.

India’s confirmed coronavirus tally reached six million cases, keeping the country second to the United States (US) in number of reported cases since the pandemic began. The Health Ministry yesterday reported 82,170 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the overall tally to 6,074,703. At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542 since the pandemic began.

New infections in India are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world. The world’s second-most populous country is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the US, where over seven million infections have been reported.