Australia deals with virus spike; Serbia erupts in violence
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The reimposition of coronavirus lockdown measures in Serbia touched off violent clashes in the capital Belgrade that left at least 60 police and protesters hurt amid renewed warnings that the virus is still gathering pace.
Australia grappled with a COVID-19 spike in the city of Melbourne that prepared on Wednesday for a second lockdown to contain the virus’ spread. Melbourne’s virus woes contrasted sharply with other areas of the country that have been reporting low or no daily infections.
Africa surpassed the half million mark of coronavirus infections according to figures released Wednesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. South Africa picked up the mantle as the world's new virus hot spot with another day of more than 10,000 confirmed cases.
There's no way to know the real number of confirmed virus cases among Africa’s 1.3 billion people as its 54 countries continue to face a serious shortage of testing materials for the virus.
In Serbia, angry protesters spilled out in the streets of Belgrade and tried to storm parliament after health officials reported the highest single-day death toll of 13 amid 299 new COVID-19 cases. Protesters hurled rocks, bottles and other objects and set fire to five police vehicles while video footage of the clashes showed police beating up some demonstrators.
Around two dozen demonstrators have been arrested while a law enforcement official said authorities are trying to identify more people who took part in the rioting.
Serbia President Aleksandar Vukic’s concession that easing virus restrictions too soon possibly led to an infection spike recast the global dilemma of when to open up and by how much without igniting another virus flare-up.
Many blame the autocratic Serbian leader for lifting the previous lockdown measures just so he would cement his grip on power after parliamentary elections. He has denied those claims.
Belgrade’s virus resurgence reflected a general trend in the Balkans where infections are keeping a high trajectory. In Albania, 50-70 new cases are reported every day — many times over the daily number of infections reported during the country’s lockdown through March and April.
Authorities in the Australian state of Victoria authorities announced another 134 coronavirus cases in the latest 24 hours, down from a daily record 191 cases on Tuesday.
The rest of Australia recorded 13 cases including three Melbourne-linked infections in the national capital Canberra. The Canberra infections are the first recorded there in almost a month.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the entire nation was behind Melbourne as it locked down for six weeks from Wednesday night.
“We’re all Melburnians now when it comes to the challenges we face,” Morrison said. “We’re all Victorians now because we’re all Australians and that’s where the challenge is right now."
The World Health Organization's emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the coronavirus is continuing to gain pace globally with daily reported cases rising to 200,000 — double the number of cases reported in April and May. Ryan warned that although the number of COVID-19 deaths appeared to be stable now, he warned that a spike in fatalities could soon follow.
Indonesia on Wednesday reported another record high of daily confirmed virus infections with 1,863 new cases, pushing the national total to more than 68,000.
National COVID-19 Task Force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said that 50 more people died of the disease, taking the country's death toll to 3,359 — the highest number of fatalities in Southeast Asia.
Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region will make mandatory the use of face masks outdoors after worrisome outbreaks in and around the city of Lleida led to a lockdown of more than 200,000 residents since Saturday. Some of the 500 infections in Lleida have so far been linked to the summer fruit harvest, which attracts many migrant laborers that are often offered poor living and working conditions.
In Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he is going into quarantine over concerns he was recently exposed to a COVID-19 carrier.
Gantz, who also serves as alternative prime minister, says he feels well and is isolating out of a sense of responsibility. Gantz made the announcement as Israel is coping with a second wave of infections. The government this week reimposed new limits on public gatherings and ordered restaurants, bars, theaters and fitness centers to shut down again.
In China, where the pandemic appeared late last year, only seven new cases were confirmed Wednesday, all of them brought from outside the country. But South Korea reported 63 additional cases among a population twice the size of Australia’s. South Korean authorities are scrambling to stem transmissions tied to places such as churches, temples, restaurants and workplaces.
Pakistan’s daily infection rate dropped below 3,000 for the second straight day. Medical professionals are urging caution, noting testing has been cut by almost one third. Still some experts, particularly in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province where nearly 60% of the country’s 220 million people live, are suggesting the virus may have peaked in June.
Menelaos Hadjicostis reported from Nicosia, Cyprus, and Rod McGuirk from Canberra, Australia. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.