Masks mandatory as cases rise in Australia state

MELBOURNE (AP) — After a one-day respite, COVID-19 cases in the Australian state of Victoria have risen again, prompting a move to make masks mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and the nearby shire of Mitchell.

Health officials yesterday recorded 363 new cases in the past 24 hours. Two men and a woman in their 90s died, taking the national death toll from COVID-19 to 122.

On Saturday, Victoria’s new cases fell to 217 from a record high of 428 the previous day.

By Wednesday, masks or face coverings will be mandatory for people who leave their homes for exercise or to purchase essential goods.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said up to three million face masks are on order by the state government and the first batch of 300,000 is due to arrive this week.

Andrews said those who fail to wear a mask will be fined AUD200 (USD140).

“There’s no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus and it’s a simple thing, but it’s about changing habits, it’s about becoming a simple part of your routine,” Andrews said.

A record 24-hour surge of 38,902 new cases has taken India’s coronavirus total to 1,077,618. The Health Ministry yesterday also reported 543 additional deaths for a total of 26,816. The number of people who have recovered continues to grow. The Health Ministry data shows 677,422 patients have been cured so far across the country, putting the recovery rate at 62.82 per cent. Experts said India is likely to witness a series of peaks as the infection spread in rural areas.

China yesterday reported another 13 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the northwestern city of Urumqi, raising the total in the country’s most recent local outbreak to at least 30. An additional three cases from overseas increased China’s total number of confirmed infections to 83,660 with 4,634 reported deaths.

Despite the Urumqi outbreak, China has just 251 people remaining in treatment for COVID-19. Another 151 people were being monitored in isolation for showing signs of having the virus or for testing positive without showing symptoms. At least 23 of those asymptomatic cases were in Urumqi, although China does not include them in confirmed cases. Urumqi has responded by reducing subway, bus and taxi services, closed off some residential communities and is now conducting citywide tests, beginning with areas where cases had been reported, according to state media. Some restrictions on people leaving the city have also been imposed, with the number of flights from the city reduced.

South Korea has reported less than 40 additional cases of the coronavirus for a second straight day, as authorities struggle to suppress an uptick in local infections. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday the 34 new cases raise the country’s total to 13,745 with 295 deaths. The agency says 21 of the newly confirmed cases were domestically infected, all of them in the densely populated Seoul area or two central cities. The rest were from overseas. Health authorities have said imported case of COVID-19 are less threatening than local transmissions because South Korea is mandating testing and enforcing two-week quarantines on all people arriving from abroad.