As the number of global coronavirus cases neared 18 million on Sunday, a state of disaster was declared in Australia’s state of Victoria with the local government implementing a night curfew as part of its toughest restrictions yet to contain the virus.
State Premier Daniel Andrews said that the new restrictions, to be in place for six weeks until mid-September, will allow only one person per household to go shopping once a day.
A curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day will also be implemented starting Sunday evening in Melbourne, the state capital, barring the nearly five million people in the city from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care.
“If we don’t make these changes, we’re not going to get through this,” Andrews was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “We need to do more. That is what these decisions are about.”
Victoria on Sunday reported 671 infections, one of its highest, and seven COVID-19 deaths.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have crossed half a million mark, its health ministry said on Saturday.
The country recorded 10,107 new confirmed cases, pushing the total to 503,290, according to the ministry.
Cases in South Africa, which has the fifth highest total in the world, have overwhelmed an already stretched healthcare system, but President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday he sees “promising signs” that the rapid growth of cases has stabilized and that the country’s strained health system is managing to cope.
In India, which has the third largest number of cases in the world, Interior Minister Amit Shah has been hospitalized after catching the coronavirus, he said in a tweet Sunday, becoming the most senior politician in the country to test positive for the disease.
Shah, a close aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, heads a ministry that has been at the forefront of managing the epidemic.
India has so far reported more than 1.7 million confirmed cases, behind the U.S. and Brazil, and 37,364 deaths, according to its health officials.
“I request all of you who came in contact with me in the last few days to isolate yourselves and get tested,” Shah said.
China, where the pandemic first emerged, reported 49 new cases on Sunday, 33 of which were locally transmitted.
It comes after 45 cases were reported on Friday, a significant decline from 127 new cases recorded a day earlier — the highest number of new cases since March 5.
Three imported cases were recorded in the Hubei province, the first epicenter of the pandemic.
Also on Sunday, seven Chinese health officials arrived in Hong Kong, which its leader Carrie Lam said earlier this week was on the verge of a large-scale outbreak after seeing a surge in locally transmitted coronavirus cases in July.
They are the first members of a 60-person team from mainland China that will assist with anti-epidemic work in the city, starting with the construction of a temporary laboratory to ramp up testing.
On Sunday, Lam’s government quelled rumours that the genetic data used in testing will be sent off to the mainland, saying all virus testing will only be conducted in Hong Kong.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.