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Melbourne lifts one of world’s longest lockdowns after 111 days

The rollback came after the city reported zero new coronavirus cases on Monday and Tuesday, a dramatic drop from the hundreds logged each day during the outbreak’s peak in late July and early August.

“I’m pretty proud of what we have achieved here,” Sharon Lewin, the director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, told the BBC. “The outcome has been extraordinary — not without its pain, though.”

While the 111-day lockdown helped stop the spread of the virus, it has also taken a devastating toll on the local economy and mental health of residents.

Victoria, the state where Melbourne is located, lost an average of 1,200 jobs a day as most businesses were forced to stay closed, according to Bloomberg News. Demand for mental health services grew by 31 percent in September and October as a lockdown, which began in July and was initially supposed to last only six weeks, dragged on. Meanwhile, alcohol consumption increased, as did domestic violence.

Enduring the prolonged shutdown may have been made even more challenging by the fact that Melbourne had only recently exited a nationwide lockdown that was in place from March to May, giving residents a brief taste of normal life before their daily activities were curtailed again.

Melbourne residents stuck at home this summer watched travel and part of ordinary life resume in much of Europe while the virus surged across the United States. After stringent lockdowns in countries including Italy and Spain, Europe appeared to have largely contained its major outbreaks for a time, and began reopening borders.

This too came at a cost. Europe is now facing a surge of infections.

European leaders have said their goal is to avoid hard lockdowns like those imposed in the spring, which, as in Melbourne, had painful repercussions for economies and communities. Nonetheless, as hospitals warn of increasing strain, both Italy and Spain have tightened restrictions in recent days, while France is reportedly considering a month-long lockdown and Germany is expected to announce new, tougher rules this week.

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New outbreak delays easing of rules in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Australia — A COVID-19 outbreak in the north of Melbourne has led health authorities in Australia’s Victoria state to hold off on any further easing of restrictions in the beleaguered city.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews withheld any announcement on an easing on Sunday as the state awaits results on 3,000 people who were tested in the city’s north in the past 24 hours.

He described it as a “cautious pause” – not a setback – to rule out there wasn’t widespread community transmission linked to the cluster.

Among the current restrictions are mandatory wearing of masks and no traveling beyond 25 kilometers (15 miles) from home. At the start of the second wave of cases two months ago, Andrews instituted an overnight curfew and shut down most businesses.

“I know it is frustrating,” Andrews said. “I know people are keen to have a long and detailed list of changes to the rules. It is not appropriate for us to do that now.”″

Victoria reported seven new coronavirus cases on Sunday, with six linked to the latest outbreak, which involves 39 people across 11 households.

No additional deaths kept the state toll at 817 and the national toll at 905.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Surging coronavirus colors White House race in closing days

— Europe, US watch case totals grow, debate new restrictions

— Colombia reaches 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases

— Iran’s supreme leader has urged authorities to prioritize public health above any economic or security concerns, amid the Mideast’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus. Iran’s death toll from the global pandemic topped 32,000 this week.

— Pope Francis met with the Spanish prime minister Saturday at the Vatican, which has had a rash of COVID-19 infections confirmed in recent days, but neither man used a face a mask during the public part of their meeting.

— Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for the coronavirus; apologizes to those in quarantine because of contact, including Poland’s recent French Open winner.

— Police force in England says it will try to stop people from leaving Wales, which has started a 17-day lockdown to slow a surging rate of coronavirus infections.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities have terminated a number of passenger trains and widened the curfew as COVID-19 cases related to a new cluster at a garment factory continue to surge.

The Railway Department canceled at least 16 trains — mostly ran through busy office hours — after the number of commuters declined due to the curfew imposed in many parts of the country.

More than a dozen villages are isolated in densely populated Western province, which includes capital Colombo.

Authorities last week closed the island’s main fish market on Colombo’s outskirts after 49 traders tested positive for the coronavirus. By Sunday, the number of cases from the fish

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Melbourne ready to ease rules with 1 new case

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Victoria state has reported just one new case of COVID-19 and no deaths as the city of Melbourne moves closer towards the easing of some lifestyle restrictions.

The state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 816 and the Australian total is 904.

Melbourne residents are expecting COVID-19 restrictions to be eased on Sunday but it is unclear how much freedom will be regained.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated the changes would be more “in the social space,” prompting pleas from business operators for relief from restrictions that once included an overnight curfew.


Current restrictions include a two-hour exercise limit within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of work or home and mandatory face masks covering the mouth and nose when a person leaves their home.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China, has completed coronavirus testing for its 11 million residents following an outbreak and found no new infections so far. As of Friday, the 10.9 million samples came back negative. Xue Qingguo, Qingdao’s deputy mayor, told state broadcaster CCTV that the risk of community transmission “is basically eliminated.” The citywide testing was ordered after 13 people were infected in China’s first locally transmitted cases in over two months. The source of the outbreak was traced to two dock workers who had tested positive for the virus in September but did not exhibit any symptoms at first. They had visited a hospital in Qingdao and were sent to a CAT scan room, which was not disinfected properly afterward and led to the infection of other patients, according to health officials. Health Commission Director Sui Zhenhua and Deng Kai, president of Qingdao’s thoracic hospital to which the cases have been linked, have been placed under investigation in connection with the outbreak. On Saturday, the National Health Commission reported 13 new imported cases. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 85,659 confirmed cases.

— India reported 62,212 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total to more than 7.4 million and continuing a downward trend. The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 837 additional fatalities, taking the death toll to 112,998. The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for nearly 36% of total fatalities. According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily so far this month. But some experts say India’s figures may not be reliable because of poor reporting and inadequate health infrastructure. India is also relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests. Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told reporters on Friday that the next two months were particularly crucial because of the winter season and festivals. New Delhi is also bracing

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Melbourne closer to easing restrictions

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s Victoria state has reported just one new case of COVID-19 and no deaths as the city of Melbourne moves closer towards the easing of some lifestyle restrictions.

The state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 816 and the Australian total is 904.

Melbourne residents are expecting COVID-19 restrictions to be eased on Sunday but it is unclear how much freedom will be regained.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated the changes would be more “in the social space,” prompting pleas from business operators for relief from restrictions that once included an overnight curfew.


Current restrictions include a two-hour exercise limit within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of work or home and mandatory face masks covering the mouth and nose when a person leaves their home.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Virus surges in key battleground states as election nears

— White House puts ‘politicals’ at CDC to try to control info

— UK’s Johnson threatens to impose restrictions on Manchester

— Belgium will tighten coronavirus restrictions from Monday in an effort to hold the disease in check. The new measures include a night-time curfew and the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants for a month.

— Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.

— Hundreds of Argentine flags dotted the sand of a beach at the Mar del Plata resort, a poignant memorial to the victims of the novel coronavirus in one of this South American country’s virus hot spots.

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— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported 418 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths.

At the current rate of transmission, Oregon Health Authority officials project that new infections will increase “substantially” to 570 new reported cases a day and 40 hospitalizations.

In addition, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that Lane County has been added to the County Watch List.

Currently there are five counties on the watch list — Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Malheur and Umatilla. A county is placed on the watch list when COVID-19 is spreading quickly.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico health officials on Friday confirmed the state set another single-day record with 819 COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 35,770 since the pandemic began.

New rules to limit gatherings to five people or less, reduce hotel capacities and impose a 10 p.m. closing time for bars and some restaurants also took effect Friday after successive days of record-breaking daily infection rates.

The previous record of 672 on Thursday already had eclipsed records set in recent days.

The state on Friday also reported six additional deaths related to the pandemic, bringing that total to 928.

At the University of New Mexico, eight football players and one assistant coach have tested

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