Australia records its deadliest day of pandemic.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic Monday as the government urged hot spot Victoria state to announce its plans to lift a lockdown on the second-largest city of country.
Health department of Victoria reported 41 deaths from COVID-19 and 73 new infections in the latest 24-hour period. While the deaths were a state and national high, the tally of new infections was lowest of Victoria since 67 new cases were recorded on June 30 in the early weeks of the second wave of the pandemic, which has primarily been concentrated in the state capital, Melbourne.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said only eight of the 41 fatalities occurred in the latest 24-hour period. The other 33 fatalities occurred in aged care since late July and were reported on Sunday following a tightening of reporting obligations and a review of previous reporting, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.
A six-week lockdown in the city is due to be relaxed on Sept. 13. But the state government has not said how it will be relaxed or given any assurances that it would not be extended.
Victoria has recorded more than 19,000 infections with the coronavirus, almost 80% more than 25,000 cases in Australia, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. The state also accounts for the vast majority more than 650 deaths in Australia.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg of Australia said on Monday he disagreed with the Victorian government that it was too early to announce plans to reopen the economy.
“Business is very frustrated because they have not been told when can they open up, when can people get back to work,” Frydenberg told Nine Network television.
Andrews said he would announce his plan of government to reopen the economy on Sunday, a week before the six-week lockdown is scheduled to end.
Frydenberg pointed to a Treasury Department forecast that in the next three months more people in Victoria will be receiving pandemic employment subsidies than from the rest of Australia combined. Australia pays employers an allowance known as Job Keeper to continue paying staff who have no work to do.
Consumer spending had fallen 30% in Victoria due to the lockdown while spending had declined by only 3% across the rest of Australia.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— India registered 78,512 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, maintaining an upward surge. The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 948 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 64,469. Five straight increases of more than 75,000 cases a day have raised the total virusof country tally to over 3.6 million. The virus has badly hit India major cities and is now fast spreading in smaller towns and rural areas. India has significantly increased testing and conducts nearly 1 million tests every day. In a further easing of virus restrictions, subway of New Delhi will reopen gradually starting Sept. 7. Schools, colleges and movie theaters will remain closed until the end of September.
— New Zealand lifted a lockdown in the city of Auckland on Monday and is mandating masks on public transport. The largest city of nation had been in a lockdown for more than two weeks after an outbreak of the coronavirus was discovered earlier this month, following more than three months without any community transmission. Health Minister Chris Hipkins said it was safe to reopen Auckland because all the recent infections have been linked to the same cluster through contact tracing. “We are already seeing signs of the city getting back to normal,” he said. Anecdotally, about 90% of public transport passengers in Auckland have been wearing masks, Hipkins added. Nine new infections of New Zealand reported Monday included four in recently returned travelers who are in quarantine.
— The government in Xinjiang region of China is imposing draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, including physically locking people in homes and arresting those who do not comply with strict quarantines of more than 40 days. Some residents are forced to swallow traditional Chinese medicine, according to government notices, social media posts and interviews with three people in quarantine, and at least one herbal remedy contains ingredients banned in other countries. A Uighur woman told The Associated Press that she and dozens of cellmates in a detention center had to strip naked once a week and sit as they and their cells were hosed down with disinfectant. “It was scalding,” she said. “My hands were ruined, my skin was peeling.”
— Hong Kong authorities say nearly half a million people have registered for a free universal coronavirus testing program that is due to begin Tuesday. Residents registering online have already booked out 80 testing sites in gy