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Covid-19: US virus numbers surge as Australian authorities suspend flights into Adelaide

South Australia reports its first significant outbreak since April

People queue outside a designated COVID-19 testing center in New York City
People queue outside a designated COVID-19 testing center in New York City
Image: Bebeto Matthews

THE US SURPASSED 11 million coronavirus cases Sunday, adding one million new cases in less than a week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, a sudden cluster of virus cases has been detected in South Australia after seven months without a significant outbreak.

In the US, the dizzying rise came as cities and states across the country were implementing new restrictions to try to halt the spread of the virus, with stay-at-home orders set to be imposed in Chicago today.

The US crossed the 10 million case threshold on 9 November,

As of 1.30am yesterday — just six days later — the Johns Hopkins University real-time tracker showed that the confirmed US caseload stood at 11,025,046.

There have been 246,108 deaths in the country — both are the highest tolls in absolute terms in the world.

The US has seen a worrying surge in coronavirus cases since the start of November, forcing local and state officials from coast to coast to take more drastic steps to reduce the disease’s spread, with many hospitals already warning that they are running out of resources.

In addition to the stay-at-home orders in Chicago, the country’s third-biggest city, its biggest — New York, the epicentre of the country’s spring outbreak — is also rushing to fend off a second wave with new restrictions on bars and restaurants.

New York schools will remain open today, even though New York City mayor Bill de Blasio had warned that they could switch to fully remote learning by then.

President Donald Trump promised last Friday that the first Americans would start receiving a vaccine in “a matter of weeks”.

However, he said he remained firmly against new lockdowns.

Further complicating matters is Trump’s refusal to cooperate in the shift to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, denying the Democrat both federal funding for transition work and vital briefings by outgoing officials.

Democrats and Biden’s chief of staff say this could have a damaging impact on his ability to face the mounting challenges posed by the pandemic once he assumes office.

Biden and his team currently are not even allowed to consult with experts like top government immunologist Anthony Fauci, who is still a part of the White House Covid-19 task force.

“Of course it would be better” if such talks could begin, Fauci told CNN on Sunday, noting that the virus could kill tens of thousands more Americans by the time Biden takes office on January 20.

‘Powerful cluster’

A sudden coronavirus cluster has emerged in the Australian city of Adelaide today after seven months without a significant outbreak there, with the virus again escaping from the country’s hotel quarantine system.

South Australia state reported four cases had been detected in the city on Sunday, before the cluster grew sharply overnight to 17 people — the largest there since April.

All but two of the 17 were members of the same large family, including one who was working in a hotel used to quarantine travellers returning from overseas.

Fearful of case numbers spiralling, authorities snapped back a swathe of coronavirus restrictions and suspended international flights into Adelaide.

“No effort will be spared to slow and stop the spread of the powerful cluster,” South Australia state Premier Steven Marshall told a press conference.

Officials ordered hundreds of people to isolate while closing linked schools and businesses.

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South Australia residents are being urged to wear masks, work from home and avoid non-essential travel.

The Adelaide cases also prompted other states to immediately impose new restrictions on anyone travelling from South Australia. 

The country’s internal borders had been gradually reopening and were due to be almost fully reopened by Christmas.

South Australia last detected a Covid-19 cluster outside border quarantine in August, when health authorities swiftly prevented the small handful of cases from spreading using similar measures.

But there are fears the latest outbreak has the potential to infect high-risk populations, with a prison guard and aged-care workers reportedly among those testing positive.

It comes just as Australians were breathing a collective sigh of relief after squashing a second-wave outbreak in Melbourne that originated from security bungles at hotel quarantine.

Melbourne, which recorded thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths in recent months, has now gone more than two weeks without a single new case.

Overall, Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus, with just over 27,700 cases and 907 deaths recorded since the pandemic began.

 

© Agence France-Presse

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