Asia Today: Melbourne to largely emerge from virus lockdown

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Commuters wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus look out from a traveling bus during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Schools and kindergartens have been suspended and communities are on lockdown in Kashgar, a city in China's northwest Xinjiang region, after more than 130 asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus were discovered. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

COLOMBO – Melbourne, Australia’s former coronavirus hot spot, will largely emerge from a lockdown after the nation’s second-largest city on Monday recorded its first day without a new coronavirus case in more than four months.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said that at midnight Tuesday, restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to open and outdoor contact sports can resume. At midnight on Nov. 8, Melbourne residents will no longer be restricted to traveling within 25 kilometers (16 miles) of their homes.

Melbourne has been under strict lockdown measures since early July, and the state government has been accused of inflicting unnecessary economic damage by not relaxing restrictions sooner.

The last time Victoria recorded a 24-hour period without a single case was June 9. Its last fatality was on Oct. 19, which raised the state’s death toll to 817. Only 88 people have died from COVID-19 elsewhere in Australia. Victoria’s daily infection tally peaked at 725 in early August.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Sri Lanka’s Parliament was closed on Monday in order to disinfect the premises after a police officer at the complex tested positive for the coronavirus amid a new surge of the virus in the country. Parliament was closed for two days as a precautionary measure so the premises can be disinfected, said Narendra Fernando, the Parliament’s sergeant of arms. Close associates of the officer were also tested, with the results expected later Monday. An additional 22 Parliament staffers will be tested on Tuesday, Fernando said. Sri Lanka has seen a fresh outbreak of the virus since early this month, when a new cluster emerged centered at a garment factory near Colombo, the capital. On Monday, 351 new cases were confirmed in the Indian Ocean island nation. Most of the new infections are related to the garment factory cluster, which has grown to 4,400 cases, more than half the country’s total of 7,872. One fatality was reported on Sunday, raising Sri Lanka’s death toll to 16.

— India on Monday reported fewer than 46,000 new coronavirus cases, continuing a downward trend, though rising air pollution and the Hindu festival season continue to raise fears of a fresh surge in infections. The Health Ministry said that 45,148 new cases raised the country's overall toll to over 7.9 million. The ministry also reported 480 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 119,014. India is second in the world behind the U.S. in total cases. Last month, the country hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.


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