Covid-19 wrap | Australia to lock down over coronavirus, Greece re-opens islands

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis.

FOLLOW THE LIVE UPDATE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates

Australia to lock down 300 000 in Melbourne suburbs after coronavirus spike

Authorities will lock down around 300 000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from late on Wednesday to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases in Australia’s second most populous state.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7 830 cases and 104 deaths, but the recent surge has stoked fears of a second wave of Covid-19, echoing concerns expressed in other countries.

Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday, a major milestone in the spread of a disease that has killed more than half a million people in seven months.

From midnight, more than 30 suburbs in Australia’s second-biggest city will return to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic. That means residents will be confined to home except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.

The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz that authorities hope will extend to half the population of the area affected, and for which borders will be patrolled, authorities said.

The measures come as curbs ease across the rest of the state of Victoria, with restaurants, gyms and cinemas reopening in recent weeks.

Victoria recorded 73 fresh cases on Tuesday from 20 682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday. State premier Daniel Andrews warned on Wednesday that the return of broader restrictions across city remained a possibility.

– Reuters

Puerto Rico to require negative Covid-19 tests from all airport arrivals

The US possession of Puerto Rico will require all visitors arriving by air to present a negative Covid-19 test or be held under quarantine at their own expense, officials said on Tuesday.

Starting on 15 July, all visitors – including those arriving from other parts of the United States – must show airport authorities the results of a molecular test, with samples taken from a nostril.

The test must be no more than 72 hours old, a statement from island authorities said.

If arrivals have not taken a test, one will be administered immediately and the passenger must remain quarantined until results are available.

If the results are positive, the visitor must be held in quarantine for 14 days and obligated to pay for all expenses, including medical.

Governor Wanda Vazquez said she understood that the strict measures and social distancing from loved ones were “difficult” but said “necessary precautions must be taken to avoid infecting others”.

Puerto Rico, population 3.1 million, has registered more than 7 200 novel coronavirus cases and 153 deaths.


Thailand schools reopen with strict hygiene rules

Mask-wearing pupils catching up with friends at one Bangkok high school were quickly told to spread out as they headed back to lessons on Wednesday after months of distance learning due to coronavirus restrictions.

The teenagers, resuming classes along with all other public school students in the kingdom, chatted animatedly before being called to sit in widely spaced rows for the opening session.

The school principal, Arwuth Meekhanphet, warned them all to closely follow new hygiene rules, which included the face coverings and social distancing.

“You never know whether you or your friend has it,” he said into an intercom.

Thailand has recorded more than 3 100 coronavirus cases and 58 deaths – a low toll considering it became the first country outside China to detect an infection, in mid-January.

Ahead of Wednesday’s nationwide resumption of classes, authorities recommended that class sizes be restricted to 20 to 25 students while doorknobs, desks and other areas at risk of spreading infection be sanitised frequently throughout the day.

Student Parichat Klanpumisri said she was not concerned about catching the virus, but reported feeling nervous about meeting up with classmates again after isolating for so long.

“I haven’t met anyone for a long time and the atmosphere of the classroom and internet learning is so different,” the 17-year-old said.

The country’s nightlife will also come back to life on Wednesday, with bars, clubs and massage parlours, which are sometimes fronts for brothels, expected to reopen in the evening.

However, authorities have said there should be “no sex trade”, while extremely strict limits on social situations should be observed – such as bar patrons standing a metre apart.

Despite the push for normality in daily life, the kingdom’s cabinet on Tuesday extended its state of emergency for another month.


Tokyo confirms 67 new cases of coronavirus infection – NHK

Tokyo confirmed 67 new cases of coronavirus infection on Wednesday, marking the highest daily tally in the Japanese capital since the state of emergency was lifted in late May, public broadcaster NHK reported.

It was also the sixth straight day in which Tokyo had confirmed more than 50 cases, NHK said.

– Reuters

Greece reopens islands to flights in bid to save tourism season

Greece on Wednesday reopened flights to its flagship island destinations as it raced to salvage a portion of the annual tourism season that is vital to its economy.

Over 100 flights are expected at 14 regional airports that include the popular islands of Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, airport manager Fraport said.

All airports in the country are now receiving international flights and the ports of Patras and Igoumenista will again receive ferries from Italy.

Travellers are given scannable bar codes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days.

Those who are tested will be told to isolate at the address provided on the questionnaire while waiting for the results.

“It will be a very difficult tourism season. We will do the best we can,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet this week.

Greece, which has a relatively low coronavirus death toll under 200, has launched a promotional campaign to revive tourism – which accounts for a quarter of its gross domestic product – and hopes to reassure potential travellers as well as Greeks who fear a resurgence of the pandemic with the return of tourists.


Russia reports 6 556 new coronavirus cases

Russia on Wednesday reported 6 556 new cases of the novel coronavirus, taking its nationwide tally to 654 405.

The country’s coronavirus response centre said 216 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 9 536.

– Reuters

Burundi changes tack as president declares Covid-19 ‘biggest enemy’

Burundi’s new President Evariste Ndayishimiye has declared the coronavirus the country’s “biggest enemy”, in a major about-turn for a nation which has largely ignored the dangers of the virus.

Former president Pierre Nkurunziza, who died last month, and even Ndayishimiye himself, had until now downplayed the gravity of the pandemic, saying God had spared Burundi from its ravages.

Burundi held a full-blown campaign ahead of a May election, and unlike its neighbours has taken few measures to combat the spread of the virus.

Officially the country has reported only 170 cases and one death in two months.

Ndayishimiye was speaking late on Tuesday after the swearing in of his new government in parliament.

“From tomorrow (Wednesday), I declare the Covid-19 pandemic the biggest enemy of Burundians, because it is clear it is becoming their biggest concern,” he said.

“We firmly commit ourselves to fight this pandemic.”

He called for “the strict respect for preventative measures which the health ministry will from now on display across the country”.

He said to promote cleanliness, the government will subsidise 50 percent of the price of soap, and will lower the cost of water in the country.

He reminded citizens that tests for the virus were free, as was treatment for those who were ill, warning those who did not get tested when they had symptoms.


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