Australia's Victoria declares disaster, sets curfew to curb COVID-19

William WEST / AFP

The Australian state of Victoria has declared a state of disaster and imposed a nightly curfew for Melbourne as part of new restrictions to contain a resurgent COVID-19.

Melbourne, which is already under a reimposed six-week stay-home order, has struggled to rein in the disease, with record numbers of infections of the new coronavirus reported last week.

On Sunday, Victoria reported 671 infections, one of its highest, and seven COVID-19 deaths. High numbers of community transmissions and cases of unknown origins have forced the new restrictions, which will be in place for six weeks, officials said.

"The current rules have avoided thousands and thousands of cases each day, and then thousands of people in hospital and many more tragedies than we have seen. But it is not working fast enough," Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.

A curfew from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am every day will be implemented from Sunday in Melbourne, barring the nearly five million people in the city from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care.

The sweeping new restrictions limit the time Melbourne residents may spend on outdoor exercise and essential shopping. All schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday.

Supermarkets will remain open, and restaurants, already closed for dining in, will be able to continue with their takeaway and delivery services.

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