Authorities in Victoria have announced that the wearing of facemasks in Melbourne will be mandatory from Wednesday, July 22, due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. The measure will also be applied from the same date in the Mitchell Shire, which includes the towns of Broadford, Kilmore, Seymour, Tallarook, Pyalong, and Wallan. The measure, which was announced on Sunday, July 19, came in response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases recorded in Melbourne, with 363 cases being reported in the past 24 hours. Those who are found in violation of the directive may be issued with a 200 AUD (140 USD) fine. Additionally, the health minister announced that Victoria's state of emergency has been extended to August 16.
Several Australian states tightened their COVID-19 restrictions as of Tuesday, July 14, amid an uptick in cases. South Australia (SA) withdrew plans to reopen its border to New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) from July 20, due to a spike in cases in Sydney (NSW). Queensland introduced a mandatory two-week quarantine for people who have visited Campbelltown and Liverpool city in Sydney, which authorities have labeled as COVID-19 hotspots.
Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire Council returned to stage three of restrictions for a six-week period. The restrictions mean that restaurants are only able to provide takeaway services, the limit on public gatherings is reduced to two people, and households can no longer welcome visitors. Melbourne residents are allowed to leave their homes to shop for essentials, seek medical attention or provide care for others, to exercise, and to study or work, if these cannot be done at home.
The border between Victoria and NSW closed as of Wednesday, July 8. The land border closure will be enforced on the NSW side so as not to strain resources in Victoria needed for fighting the outbreak. A permit system is in place for those who need to cross the border for unavoidable travel, and special arrangements are due to be announced for those living in border towns.
Victoria state authorities announced that lockdown measures were to be reintroduced in parts of Melbourne on July 4. Authorities announced that the postcodes of 3031 and 3051 would be affected, corresponding to the areas of Flemington, Kensington, and North Melbourne. Under these restrictions, residents may only leave their homes for food, medical care, exercise, work, or education. Authorities are also placing nine public housing towers under a "hard lockdown" which confines residents to their apartments. On July 1, authorities introduced lockdowns in the postcodes of 3012, 3021, 3032, 3038, 3042, 3046, 3047, 3055, 3060, and 3064. These latter restrictions will remain in place until July 29.
On June 28, Victoria state authorities made testing COVID-19 compulsory for returning travelers following a spike in infections in recent days in the region. Authorities have informed that those who refuse to be tested will have to quarantine for an extra ten days in addition to the 14-day minimum quarantine period.
All Australian citizens and residents returning from abroad are being quarantined in hotels for 14 days at the government's expense. Only Australian citizens, returning permanent residents, and their immediate family members are permitted to enter Australia until further notice.
As of July 19, there have been 11,802 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with 122 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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