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Australia calls in military help after coronavirus surge in Melbourne

Japan and South Korea also see spike in new cases over past few days with more clusters found

MELBOURNE: Australia, Japan and South Korea all saw new cases yesterday, showing the fight against the ultra-infectious coronavirus is far from over in countries that had succeeded in controlling the infections.

Australia's military was called in yesterday to help tackle an outbreak in Melbourne - a surge in infections that has rattled the country's second-most populous city.

Victoria has recorded double-digit increases in daily cases for more than a week - mostly in the state capital Melbourne - representing a sizeable spike in a country that has otherwise successfully curbed Covid-19.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government had offered the army's support to respond to the outbreak, while four other states had offered help with contact tracing.

Officials said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has accepted the offers of assistance from the states and asked for logistical support from the army.

"This support will mean we can get even more tests done and results back quickly - and a stronger effort to remind Victorians if you are sick, stay home and get tested," a state government spokesman said.

It comes as the country recorded its first Covid-19 death in a month, with a man in his 80s dying in Victoria, where community concern about the virus spread is ramping up.

Health officials have reported long queues at Melbourne's coronavirus testing centres, where some patients were turned away from overwhelmed facilities on Tuesday, prompting the creation of pop-up centres in several virus "hotspots".

Major supermarkets in the state also reimposed buying limits on toilet paper and other essentials yesterday after an increase in demand sparked fears of a return of panic-buying.

Mr Hunt said the situation had reached a "critical juncture" and health authorities were considering local lockdowns in the worst-affected areas because of the outbreak.

"Somebody has either not known, or not done the right thing, so we need to be honest about that," he said.

NEW CASES

In Japan, the daily number of new cases in Tokyo climbed to 55 yesterday, Governor Yuriko Koike said. This was the highest tally in 1½ months, after a cluster of infections was found at an unnamed office in the Japanese capital.

"Fifty-five daily cases was a bit of a shock to me when I first heard it," Ms Koike told reporters. "But our current situation is different from back in March and April, namely because our medical system is significantly different."

Of the 55 new cases, nine were confirmed at the workplace, which already had seven recorded infections. The new cases might have emerged outside the office where the employees had a meeting, Ms Koike said.

South Korea reported 51 new cases yesterday, up from 46 on Tuesday as the number of infections in the country continue to rise, Xinhua reported.

Of the 51 cases, 31 were locally transmitted and 19 were in Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, the Yonhap news agency reported. - AFP, REUTERS

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