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Australia locks down Melbourne as global cases top 12 million

Australia locks down Melbourne as global cases top 12 million

AFP
Melbourne
Millions of people in Australia’s second-biggest city went into lockdown on Thursday to battle another coronavirus outbreak, as the number of infections worldwide surged past 12 million.
Caseloads and death tolls have risen relentlessly in many of the world’s biggest nations, with the virus now claiming over 550,000 lives across the planet.
In Melbourne, five million people began a new lockdown just weeks after earlier restrictions ended as Australia battles a COVID-19 resurgence, with residents bracing for the emotional and economic costs.
“The idea of not being able to see people that you love and care for is really distressing, really distressing,” said a tearful Melbourne resident, Monica Marshall, whose 91-year-old mother recently entered a care home.
Shoppers in the state of Victoria -- of which Melbourne is the capital -- stripped shelves bare on Wednesday before the lockdown began, and the country’s largest supermarket chain said it had reimposed buying limits on items including pasta, vegetables and sugar.
National and international responses to the virus are under the microscope, with US President Donald Trump’s criticism of the World Health Organization as a “puppet of China” coming to a head this week.
The US has begun its formal pullout from the UN body, which opened an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic on Thursday while issuing a strong message on the need for togetherness.
“The virus thrives on division but is thwarted when we unite,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The panel, led by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will present initial findings in November.
The global death toll from the virus has now surpassed 550,000, although roughly half of the 12 million reported cases being classed as recovered.
Punishing lockdowns to try to prevent the spread of the disease have led to catastrophic economic downturns.
Some of the world’s most populous nations including India, Pakistan and Brazil are still reeling from their first outbreaks.
In the Middle East, hard-hit Iran reported a record single-day death toll of 221, taking its total to over 12,300.
In Europe, where many nations have successfully suppressed their outbreaks, France continued to re-emerge from the darkest days, announcing the Eiffel Tower would reopen its top level for the first time in three months.
However, countries further east that had lifted their lockdowns sooner than France have found themselves plunged back into restrictions with a resurgent virus.
Bulgaria banned sports fans from stadiums and shut bars and clubs and Serbia announced that it would reinstate a weekend curfew -- sparking two nights of violent protests.

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