Firefighters prepare to distribute food at a public housing complex in North Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday. Rising cases have prompted Victoria state to order a new lockdown that begins at midnight Wednesday. Photo by James Ross/EPA-EFE
July 7 (UPI) -- Australian officials said Tuesday residents and businesses in Melbourne and other areas will soon re-enter a state of lockdown due to abrupt surges in COVID-19 cases.
Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire region will begin the new six-week lockdown period beginning at midnight on Wednesday, officials said. The move came after Victoria state reported nearly 200 new coronavirus cases Monday -- its largest daily increase to date.
Australia is one of several nations that have seen case spikes in recent days and weeks. Worldwide, there have been more than 11.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and slightly more than 539,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic months ago, according to an update Tuesday from Johns Hopkins University.
The new restrictions in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will affect about 5 million people. Residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for work or school, medical reasons, exercise and shopping for essential supplies.
While retail stores will remain open, restaurants will return to offering only takeout orders.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters he made the decision to restart the lockdown after his state's "unacceptably" high number of cases Monday.
"It is simply impossible, with case rates at these levels, to have enough contract tracing staff to have enough physical resources ... in order to suppress and contain this virus without taking significant steps," he said.
Andrews said a growing sense of complacency among the population is a main factor for the rise in new cases.
"We have, to a certain extent, allowed our frustration to get the better of us and that means that regardless of what the index case is, regardless of who patient zero is and how they became infected, the virus then spreads," he said.
In India, the death toll has surpassed 20,000, according to updated government data. With more than 700,000, India now has more cases than any other nation with the exception of the United States and Brazil.
Officials on Tuesday touted World Health Organization findings that say India cases- and deaths-per-million rank among the world's lowest.
In Iran, health officials on Tuesday reported the highest single-day death toll to date, 200. The figure broke the previous record of 163 deaths a day earlier.
More than 2,600 new coronavirus cases have been identified, Iranian Health Ministry Spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.
President Hassan Rouhani said, however, that Iran has enhanced testing capabilities, with 1,200 medical facilities able to collect and process samples.
In Geneva, Switzerland, a World Health Organization expert acknowledged "emerging evidence" that the coronavirus can be spread over long distances through the air by activities such as singing or speaking loudly.
Benedetta Allegranzi, a WHO infectious diseases coordinator, said at a news briefing that such airborne transmissions "cannot be ruled out" in specific settings, such as crowded indoor spaces.
The comments represent a change in direction for the health agency, which had previously said that airborne transmission only happened when patients are being intubated.
Only two methods of transmission have been officially acknowledged -- through droplets from an infected person spread by coughing or sneezing, and by particles picked up from contaminated surfaces.
Visitors wear face masks as they tour the Whitney Museum of American Art as it reopens on September 3. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo