Victoria state, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, has announced that businesses will be closed and scaled down in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said non-essential businesses will close starting late on Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

The new restrictions followed Mr Andrews on Sunday declaring a disaster in Melbourne and introducing an evening curfew for six weeks.

Mr Andrews predicted the latest restrictions would cost 250,000 jobs.

Victoria announced on Monday 429 new infections and 13 more deaths overnight.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the infection rate would continue at 400 or 500 new Covid-19 cases a day without the new restrictions.

Industries that will have to close on-site operations for six weeks include most retail and manufacturing.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that workers in Victoria state will be entitled to a 1,500 Australian dollar payment if they are required to self-isolate for 14 days and they do not have paid sick leave.

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Norwegian cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen in Tromso, Norway (Terje Pedersen/NTB Scanpix via AP)
Norwegian cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen in Tromso, Norway (Terje Pedersen/NTB Scanpix via AP)

Meanwhile, a Norwegian cruise ship line has halted all trips and apologised for procedural errors after an outbreak of coronavirus on one ship infected at least five passengers and 36 crew.

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Health authorities fear the ship could have infected dozens of towns and villages along Norway’s western coast.

The 41 people on the MS Roald Amundsen who tested positive have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle, where the ship currently is docked.

“A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement.

He added the company that sails along Norway’s picturesque coast between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the north is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling”.

The cruise line has contacted passengers who were on the MS Roald Amundsen for its July 17 and July 24 departures from Bergen to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, known for its polar bears.

All 158 crew members on MS Roald Amundsen have been tested and 122 were negative. There were 209 guests on the first voyage and 178 on the second voyage.

In France, beach resorts, promenades on the Loire River and farmers markets in the Alps are among scores of spots around the country where everyone is now required to wear a mask outdoors.

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The outdoor mask rules taking effect on Monday are on top of a nationwide decree last month requiring people to wear masks in all stores and other indoor public places.

Pressure is growing on the government to mandate outdoor mask use on a national level, too.

France is seeing an uptick in coronavirus infections, with hundreds of new clusters in recent weeks.

Several sites around France have started requiring masks outdoors in recent days.

Starting on Monday, 69 towns in the Mayenne region of western France imposed outdoor mask rules, as did parts of the northern city of Lille and coastal city of Biarritz in French Basque country.

France has reported 7,000 new cases in the last week, after bringing the virus nearly under control with a strict two-month nationwide lockdown, and has confirmed 30,265 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said an advance team looking into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak has concluded its mission in China, and the UN health agency has agreed to details of the deployment of a larger team.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the “international team” will deploy to Wuhan, the city where the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to have erupted late last year.

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Dr Tedros said “terms of reference” have been drawn up by the WHO and China, but he did not specify.

Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, noted “gaps in the epidemiological landscape” and said the proper studies and data to collect would be assessed.

“The real trick is to go to the human clusters that occurred first and then to work your way back systematically looking for that first signal at which the animal human species barrier was crossed,” Dr Ryan said.

“Once you understand where that the barrier was breached, then you move into the studies in a more systematic way on the animal side,” he added.


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