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Australian state declares coronavirus state of disaster; South Africa tops 500,000 cases

The number of COVID-19 cases is approaching 18 million worldwide.
A general view as an 8pm to 5am curfew has been introduced following a \"State of Disaster\" in Melbourne, Australia, on Aug. 2, 2020.
An 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew was introduced following declaration of a state of disaster in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

As the number of coronavirus cases worldwide neared 18 million Sunday, a state of disaster was declared in Australia's state of Victoria, where the government implemented a curfew as part of its toughest restrictions yet to contain the virus.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said the new restrictions, to be in place for six weeks until mid-September, will allow only one person per household to go shopping once a day.

A curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day will also start Sunday evening in Melbourne, the state capital, barring the city's nearly 5 million people from leaving their homes except for work or to get or give care.

"If we don't make these changes, we're not going to get through this," Andrews was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "We need to do more. That is what these decisions are about."

Victoria reported 671 infections Sunday, one of its highest daily totals, and seven COVID-19 deaths.

Meanwhile, South Africa's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have crossed the half-million mark, its health ministry said Saturday.

Image: Funeral workers in South Africa
Funeral workers wearing protective equipment sanitize each other after a burial at Olifantsvlei Cemetery, southwest of Johannesburg, on July 28.Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

The country recorded 10,107 new confirmed cases, pushing the total to 503,290, the ministry said.

Cases in South Africa, which has the fifth-highest total in the world, have overwhelmed an already stretched health care system, but President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday that he sees "promising signs" that the rapid growth has stabilized and that the country's health care system is managing to cope.

In India, which has the third-highest number of cases in the world, Interior Minister Amit Shah has been hospitalized after catching the coronavirus, he said in a tweet Sunday, becoming the most senior politician in the country to have tested positive for the disease.

Shah, a close aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, heads a ministry that has been at the forefront of managing the epidemic.

India has reported more than 1.7 million confirmed cases, behind the U.S. and Brazil, and 37,364 deaths, according to its health officials.

"I request all of you who came in contact with me in the last few days to isolate yourselves and get tested," Shah said.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

China, where the pandemic first emerged, reported 49 new cases Sunday, 33 of which were locally transmitted. Forty-five new cases were reported Friday, a significant decline from the 127 that were recorded Thursday — the highest number of new cases since March 5.

Three imported cases were recorded in Hubei province, the first center of the pandemic.

Also Sunday, seven Chinese health officials arrived in Hong Kong, which was on the verge of a large-scale outbreak after a surge in locally transmitted coronavirus cases in July, its leader, Carrie Lam, said last week.

They are the first members of a 60-person team from mainland China that will assist with anti-epidemic work in the city, starting with the construction of a temporary laboratory to ramp up testing.

On Sunday, Lam's government quelled rumors that the genetic data used in testing will be sent off to the mainland, saying all virus testing will be conducted only in Hong Kong.