World

Mask-wearing in public made compulsory in Melbourne

MELBOURNE Anyone venturing out in Melbourne was ordered yesterday to wear a mask as authorities struggle to contain multiple coronavirus clusters in the country's south-east.

Most people seen by AFP on the quiet streets of Melbourne's city centre wore masks in the second week of a six-week local lockdown.

Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, recorded 422 coronavirus cases yesterday - a dip from a record peak of 484 on Wednesday, but its 18th consecutive day of triple-digit rises.

The mandatory mask order allows police to issue fines of A$200 ($197) to anyone who refuses to cover their face in public, although previous lockdown rules have generally been enforced with warnings.

The state's leader said the lockdown restrictions had helped stabilise infection numbers, but the next step was driving them down.

"Stability is not enough; stability won't get us beyond this," Premier Daniel Andrews told media.

"We have to also see compliance in the community at extraordinarily high levels."

The restrictions have taken a heavy toll on the economy, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

The government reported its biggest budget deficit since World War II after committing to fiscal stimulus of around A$289 billion, or 14.6 per cent of gross domestic product.

The budget swung into a massive deficit of A$85.8 billion in the year ended June 2020 compared with an earlier forecast for a surplus, Mr Frydenberg said.

The shortfall will climb further next year, hitting A$184.5 billion in 2020-21.

Orders on masks were popping up elsewhere too.

From Aug 1, Malaysians will be required to wear face masks in public areas, said Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Those who fail to comply with the ruling can be fined or prosecuted.

He said the government made the decision following the increase in Covid-19 cases in the past three days and lack of compliance in standard operating procedures by Malaysians.

In Hong Kong, meanwhile, 118 new cases were reported yesterday, a daily record, including 111 locally transmitted cases.

Indonesia reported 1,906 new cases yesterday, bringing its total infections to 93,657, data from the country's Covid-19 taskforce showed.

Deaths rose by 117 to bring the total to 4,576.

The Philippines reported 2,200 new infections and 28 deaths.

Itshealth ministry said total deaths have increased to 1,871 and infections have risen to 74,390. - AFP, THE STAR, REUTERS

coronavirus