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AFP
September 14, 2020

Austria experiencing second wave of coronavirus: Chancellor Sebastian Kurz

World

AFP
September 14, 2020

MELBOURNE: Authorities in Melbourne arrested more than 70 people for flouting stay-at-home orders to protest against lockdown restrictions on Sunday, with some demonstrators clashing with riot police at a market in the city.

About 250 people attended the protest -- the second in as many days in the city -- promoted by coronavirus conspiracy groups on social media. The demonstrators ignored official warnings and public health orders to gather at the central Queen Victoria market, calling for an end to a weeks-long lockdown of Australia’s second-biggest city.

They were met by a heavy police presence, with scuffles breaking out as the riot squad swept through market’s fruit and vegetable aisles. Police arrested 74 people and fined 176, saying in a statement that "many protestors were aggressive and threatened violence towards officers".

One man believed to be a "primary agitator" is facing charges of incitement while another was charged with assaulting police, according to the statement. Last weekend, "Freedom Day" events were held across Australia to protest what some labelled the government’s "overblown" response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 900,000 people worldwide. The latest rallies come ahead of the gradual easing of virus restrictions in Melbourne, with daily outdoor exercise increased to two hours and small "social bubbles" allowed for people living alone from Monday.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who has previously branded the protesters "selfish", said Sunday the state could not afford to reopen too quickly. "No-one is enjoying the reality we face, but none of us have the option of ignoring the reality that we face," he said.

"We cannot open up now and stay open. It would not be safe, it would not be smart." An overnight curfew, restrictions on visitors to homes and a limit on travelling more than five kilometres (about three miles) are set to remain in place across Melbourne until October 26.

Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus, allowing other regions to roll back restrictions. The nation has recorded more than 26,600 cases and 810 deaths in a population of 25 million, the vast majority in Melbourne and its surrounds.

Meanwhile, Austria is experiencing the start of a second wave of coronavirus infections, its chancellor said on Sunday, as cases spike upwards in line with other EU countries. From Friday to Saturday, the Alpine nation of nearly nine million people reported 869 new cases -- more than half of those in the capital Vienna.

"What we are experiencing is the beginning of the second wave," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement, appealing to the population to stick to anti-virus measures and reduce social contacts.

He warned that the mark of 1,000 cases per day would be reached soon. France reported 10,000 new infections on Saturday, close to the level of the peak of the first wave in April, while Britain introduced new restrictions on gatherings last week as the number of new daily infections surged to around 3,500. On Friday, Kurz announced the government would expand mandatory mask-wearing and slap new restrictions on events from Monday. Masks will be compulsory in all shops and public buildings, in addition to places where they must already be worn such as supermarkets and public transport.