SYDNEY (AP) – Australia’s leading medical group says the New South Wales state government has put the rest of the country at risk by its decision not to act ‘hard and early’ in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak on beaches in northern Sydney, which is believed to have also caused new cases in neighboring Victoria.
Victoria registered 10 new local cases on Saturday, bringing the number of active cases in the state to 29. Testing has linked Melbourne’s novel coronavirus cluster to the New South Wales outbreak.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy said the NSW government was ‘playing the game’ by relying heavily on its contact tracing system instead of imposing a lockdown quick to stop the spread in Sydney.
“They put themselves in danger and put the rest of the country in danger,” Moy told Fairfax Media. “I can totally understand why Victoria reacted (by) closing the border very quickly, because they are very worried about it.
Victoria only recently overcame a second wave, which forced overnight curfews, lockdowns of Melbourne and other areas and which killed more than 800 people on Australia’s death toll of 909. had been without a new case for more than two months until the new epidemics. over the past week.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has resisted pressure to force Sydney to lock down, mandate masks and ban crowds at some sporting events, despite the number of cases in her state which has risen from zero to 170 in two weeks.
University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said the New South Wales government should have locked down the northern beaches outbreak 48 to 72 hours earlier.
“They have been slow,” he said, adding that he was also one of many experts in Australia who were scratching their heads over why the state was unwilling to impose masks.
On Saturday, Berejiklian gave in somewhat to the mask policy. From midnight Saturday, masks will be mandatory in shopping malls, on public transport, in places of entertainment such as a cinema, and fines will take effect on Monday.
In December, many states freely opened their borders to other states, and the hope was that Australia would be fully open before Christmas except for international travelers. But the Sydney North Beach outbreak has new restrictions in place.
The most recent came at midnight on Friday when Victoria closed its border with New South Wales, causing bottlenecks as people rushed to beat the closure. Once in Victoria, COVID-19 testing sites saw long lines as travelers lined up for mandatory testing. Anyone who could not return within that time was quarantined for 14 days.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:
– South Korea will extend strict distancing rules for another two weeks to suppress a viral resurgence, as it has confirmed its first cases of a seemingly more contagious variant of COVID-19 detected in South Africa. Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said on Saturday that the second-highest level of distancing rules, called “Tier-2.5”, will remain in place in the greater Seoul area until January 17. areas until then. South Korea reported 824 new cases, bringing the national total to 62,593 with 942 deaths. This is the first time the country’s daily tally has fallen below 800 since December 28. The Seoul area has been at the center of the outbreak, accounting for around 70% of cases. Kwon says the government will not enforce the toughest restrictions in the Seoul area because the country’s daily tally currently hovers around 1,000 with no more surges. He says concerns about the economy have also been addressed. Nationwide restrictions include banning social gatherings of more than five people and in-person religious services. South Korea also said the first confirmed case of the South African variant of the coronavirus was found in a person who arrived on December 26 from the country. Four more cases of a British variant also considered to be more contagious were reported on Saturday, bringing the total to nine. The government plans to require all foreigners entering South Korea to submit negative results for the COVID-19 test, effective January 8.
– The city of Shenyang in northeast China is testing millions of residents amid low but persistent growth in cases. The city of Liaoning Province, just north of the capital, confirmed seven new cases of COVID-19 on the first day of the year, while another case was reported in Beijing. Emergency tests are already underway for more than a million people following the detection of a small group in the northeastern suburbs of Beijing. Wary of a new wave of infections, China is urging tens of millions of migrant workers to stay put during the Lunar New Year holiday next month, typically the world’s largest annual human migration. China reported a total of 22 cases on Saturday, including 14 from outside the country. China has reported a total of 87,093 cases and 4,634 deaths, though some question whether those numbers underestimate the full extent of the outbreak.
– Thai authorities plan to launch two levels of activity restrictions for highly controlled areas where coronavirus cases are on the rise. The measures, which are awaiting approval from the prime minister, would go into effect on Monday and end on February 1. Measures for level 1 include closing places where the risk of spreading the virus is high, avoiding large crowds and travel across provinces. and organize online courses. If these measures do not prevent the spread of the virus, more stringent level 2 measures will be imposed. Bangkok has already closed sites, including schools and places of entertainment. A new outbreak has spread from the country’s largest wholesale seafood market in Samut Sakhon province, south of Bangkok, and from an arcade in Rayong province, south-eastern Bangkok. capital city. Thailand reported 216 new cases and one more death on Saturday, bringing its total to 7,379 cases and 64 deaths.
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