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

News Network
July 1,2020

Melbourne, July 1: 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.

"If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission ... across metropolitan Melbourne," Andrews said at a briefing. "Ultimately if I didn't shut down those postcodes I'd be shutting down all postcodes. We want to avoid that."

Victoria's spike in cases has been linked to staff members at hotels housing returned travellers for which quarantine protocols were not strictly followed. Victorian state authorities have announced an investigation into the matter.

Some other Australian states and territories are preparing to open borders, but applying limits and quarantine measures to citizens of Victoria as the school holiday season gets under way.

South Australia, the country's fifth most populous state, has had just three new cases in the past month. But citing the spike in coronavirus infections, on Tuesday it cancelled its scheduled reopening to other parts of the nation.

New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state, has stopped short of closing its borders to all Victorians, but those holidaying from hotspot areas - not permitted under NSW rules - can be handed a fine of A$11,000 ($7,596) or jailed if they are detected, state authorities said.

The delays reopening internal borders cast doubts over a federal plan to set up "travel bubble" with neighbouring New Zealand that would allow movement between the two countries.

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Sri Lanka | Rajapaksa brothers strengthen grip as their group wins ‘super majority’ in parliament polls

Agencies
August 7,2020

Colombo, Aug 7: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's party and its allies won an overwhelming two-thirds majority in a parliament election, results showed on Friday, giving him the power to enact sweeping changes to the constitution.

The governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and its allies had won 150 seats in the 225-member parliament, according to the tally published by the election commission from Wednesday's vote.

Rajapaksa had sought a two-thirds majority in parliament to be able to restore full executive powers to the presidency, which he says are necessary to implement his agenda to make the tiny island economically and militarily secure.

He is likely to install his older brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the next prime minister. The brothers are best known for crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils during the elder Rajapaksa's presidency in 2009.

On a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which is keen to check Chinese influence on its southern neighbour, Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed to deepen ties between the two countries.

"With the strong support of the people of Sri Lanka, I look forward to working with you closely to further enhance the long-standing cooperation between our two countries," he told Modi. "Sri Lanka and India are friends and relations."

The tourism-dependent nation of 21 million people has been struggling economically since deadly Islamist militant attacks on hotels and churches last year followed by lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

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Global COVID-19 cases top 15.4 million: Johns Hopkins

Agencies
July 24,2020

The total number of global coronavirus cases has topped 15.4 million, while the deaths have increased to over 631,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Friday morning, the total number of cases stood at 15,439,456, while the fatalities rose to 631,926, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world's highest number of infections and fatalities at 4,034,831 and 144,242, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 2,287,475 infections and 84,082 deaths.

In terms of cases, India ranks third (1,238,798), and is followed by Russia (793,720), South Africa (408,052), Peru (371,096), Mexico (370,712), Chile (334,683), the UK (298,721), Iran (284,034), Spain (270,166), Pakistan (269,191), Saudi Arabia (260,394), Italy (245,338), Turkey (223,315), Colombia (218,428), France (216,667), Bangladesh (216,110), Germany (204,881), Argentina (148,027), Canada (114,398), Qatar (108,244) and Iraq (102,226), the CSSE figures showed.

The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are the UK (45,639), Mexico (41,908), Italy (35,092), France (30,185), India (29,861), Spain (28,429), Iran (15,074), Peru (17,654) and Russia (12,873).

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Senators introduce bill to allow Americans to sue China over Covid-19

Agencies
July 21,2020

Washington, Jul 21: Some half-a-dozen influential Republican lawmakers on Monday introduced a legislation in the Senate to allow Americans to sue China in federal court for its role in causing the coronavirus pandemic.

The Civil Justice for Victims of Covid Act gives federal courts authority to hear claims that China has caused or substantially contributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Introduced by senators Martha McSally, Marsha Blackburn, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Mike Rounds and Thom Tillis, the bill strips China of its sovereign immunity for reckless actions that caused the pandemic and creates a cause of action. It also authorises federal courts to freeze Chinese assets.

The legislation is closely modelled after the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) that gave more legal remedies to victims of terrorism, particularly the 9/11 victims.

“Americans who have been victimised by the lies and deceit of the Chinese Communist Party-to include those who lost loved ones, suffered business losses, or were personally harmed due to Covid-19-deserve the opportunity to hold China accountable and to demand just compensation,” McSally said.

As the death toll and financial losses of Covid-19 mount, China should be forced to pay the costs of these damages to the American people, he said.

Blackburn said that China's Communist Party must face consequences for concealing and now profiting off the Covid-19 pandemic they enabled.

“The costs are devastating: trillions of dollars in economic damage, millions of American jobs lost, and over a half million deaths worldwide – and counting. Business owners and families who have lost loved ones deserve justice,” he said.

By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe, Cotton said, adding their decision to cover up the virus led to thousands of needless deaths and untold economic harm.

Rounds said that China must be held accountable for its failure to contain Covid-19 and alleged that the country's delay in sharing the seriousness of the virus with the rest of the world isn't just negligence— it is criminal in nature.

“If China would have been transparent from the start, many more lives would have been saved in all parts of the world. Our legislation provides the tools necessary for American citizens to sue the Chinese Communist Party in federal court for financial losses incurred because of Covid-19,” he said.

Tillis alleged that the Chinese Communist Party lied to the world about Covid-19 and allowed it to become a global pandemic, causing many Americans to tragically lose their loved ones and face immense financial hardship.

“The American people deserve the right to hold the Chinese government accountable for its malicious actions, and I'm proud to join my colleagues in introducing this commonsense bill,” he said.

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