Coronavirus | Australia imposes curfew, while South Africas count tops 5,00,000  08/02/2020 17:19:30  2

Australias second-largest city Melbourne imposed an overnight curfew on Sunday to halt the spread of COVID-19 cases, as South Africas infection count topped more than half a million.

Six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency, the virus has killed more than 6,85,000 people and infected more than 17.8 million since it first emerged in China late last year.

Fresh clusters have been reported in countries  such as Australia  that had previously brought their outbreaks under control, forcing governments to reimpose lockdown measures to curb the spread despite worries over more economic fallout.

Restrictions in Victoria

Australias Victoria State imposed fresh, sweeping restrictions on Sunday, including a curfew in Melbourne for the next six weeks, a ban on weddings, and schools and universities going back online in the coming days.

Anything short of this will see it drag on for months and months and months, said Victoria leader Daniel Andrews.

Despite a lockdown, Melbourne has continued to report hundreds of new cases daily even as other States in Australia have reported zero or a small number of cases.

Many other parts of the world are struggling with much bigger outbreaks.

Health authorities in South Africa, who had been expecting a surge in cases after the gradual loosening of a strict lockdown, reported that infections had exceeded the half-million mark.

The nation is by far the hardest-hit in Africa, accounting for more than half of diagnosed infections, although President Cyril Ramaphosa said the fatality rate is lower than the global average.

Latin America and the Caribbean passed a grim milestone on Sunday as fatalities in the region climbed over 2,00,000, with Brazil and Mexico accounting for nearly three-quarters of those deaths, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources.

Irans highest count

Iran  battling West Asia deadliest outbreak  on Sunday also reported its highest single-day infection count in nearly a month, warning that most of its provinces have been hit by a resurgence of the disease.

With infections and deaths soaring the WHO has said that the pandemic is likely to be protracted and warned of possible response fatigue.

WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high, the agency said, adding that the effects of the pandemic will be felt for decades to come.

Mexico overtook Britain to become the third hardest-hit country in virus deaths  after Brazil and the United States  with more than 46,600 fatal cases.

The U.S., the worst-hit country in the world, has now tallied more than 4.6 million cases and 1,54,319 deaths.

Virus impact in Europe

Even as the race for a vaccine heats up, the pandemic and the lockdowns to stop its spread have hammered the global economy.

France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all reported huge contractions in their economies for the April-June quarter, while Europe as a whole saw gross domestic product fall by 12.1%.

While many of the continents outbreaks were largely brought under control, Switzerland's case numbers have crept up again in recent weeks, while Norway recorded its first virus death in two weeks.

Austrias month-long Salzburg festival celebrates its 100th anniversary, but now with a reduced programme and strict safety measures, including masks for spectators until they are seated and its 80,000 tickets  down from the usual 2,30,000  personalised to enable contact-tracing.

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