police car outside flinders station at night fine
(Image: AAP/Erik Anderson)

Disaster Dan 

Victoria has recorded 429 new COVID-19 overnight as Victorians wake to the state’s first full day of living in the “state of disaster” declared yesterday.

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to this afternoon announce more targeted closures of particular workplaces and industries.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said he hoped the new restrictions, which include a curfew between 8pm and 5am, would lead to a very quick decline in the number of new cases.

On Saturday, the 671 new cases recorded marked the third time the number had passed 600 in the last week.

Under the new stage four restrictions, there are only four permitted reasons to leave home — shopping for essentials, care, exercise (limited to one hour a day), and work.

It’s just the second time Victoria has ever declared a state of disaster — the first was during last summer’s bushfires.

The declaration greatly expands police powers, including giving officers the ability to enter a home without a warrant. It also allows authorities to suspend acts of parliament. 

A brief history of COVID curfews

Melbourne is now one of the most locked down cities in the world, at a time when some of the worst-affected areas are tentatively trying to return to normal.

But it’s not the only city putting its residents under curfew.  Three weeks ago, South Africa returned to its harsh lockdown — which includes not only a night curfew, but a ban on alcohol.

Similar measures — lockdown, curfew and liquor ban — have been put in place in Kenya. Last week, Jamaica imposed a curfew until September 30.

In the United States, North Carolina is under a liquor curfew. And in Uganda, at least 12 people have been killed by authorities enforcing a curfew. 

America’s ‘in a new phase’

Deborah Birx, a scientist on US President Donald Trump’s coronavirus taskforce, says the country is entering a “new phase” of the pandemic.

While the outbreak in spring hammered cities including New York and Seattle, Birx says there is now “extraordinarily widespread” community transmission across the country. The virus is now sprawling across rural America, making it much harder to reign in. 

The United States recorded nearly 60,000 new cases on Saturday.

That didn’t stop Trump indulging in a bit of deeply distasteful gloating on Twitter over the situation in Melbourne. Trump leads an administration universally condemned for its disastrous pandemic response.

The US has record 478 deaths per million people, Australia just eight.

India’s bad numbers continue

India saw a record 57,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday alone, just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi confidently declared the country was “in a better position” than others.

One of the new cases is Home Minister Amit Shah, the second-most powerful politician in the country, who reportedly attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, meanwhile, has reportedly been discharged from hospital after recovering from the virus.

More risks for disability workers

Disability support workers face heightened risk of illness and financial uncertainty during the pandemic, a new survey from the University of Melbourne has found.

Fewer than half the survey respondents who took time off work for sickness were paid — a figure that is indicative of the casualised nature of that workforce.

More than 20% of respondents said they’d received no COVID-19 infection training, and half of those who did said they wanted more training.

The findings are further evidence of the dangers of insecure work, which has been highlighted by the situation in Melbourne. One of the reasons the pandemic has taken off in Melbourne is because people in industries like aged care and meat works, with high rates of casual and insecure work, have kept turning up for shifts. 

Vlad the inoculator

Russia is declaring victory in the vaccine race, planning to launch a national vaccination drive in October. There’s one catch — the candidate vaccine is yet to actually complete clinical trials, according to The New York Times.

Winning the vaccine race would be a big propaganda coup for the Putin regime. State television has been pushing the narrative of Russia leading the world for months, even though the World Health Organization’s tracker says no Russian candidate has made it to a stage three clinical trial yet.

Researchers in the US, UK and Canada have also alleged hackers with links to Russian intelligence services have tried to steal information about vaccines being developed.

Peter Fray

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