Virus concerns spur renewed efforts to fight outbreaks
LONDON (AP) — Britain and France announced today they will require people to wear face masks in public indoor spaces and an Australian state threatened to jail anyone caught violating quarantines, amid rising global fears about a resurgence of the pandemic.
“We are not out of the woods yet, so let us all do our utmost to keep this virus cornered and enjoy summer safely,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
British officials announced the requirement after weeks of dismissing the value of masks, and said it will take effect July 24. In France, President Emmanuel Macron said masks will be required by Aug. 1, after recent rave parties in France and widespread backsliding on social distancing raised concerns about the virus may be starting to rebound.
Meanwhile, officials in the Australian state of Queensland said those breaking quarantine rules could face up to six months in jail.
The current set of fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts “appears not to be enough” in some cases, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
With higher fines and a threat of six months’ imprisonment, “I hope that will demonstrate to the public just how serious we are about enforcing these measures,” Miles said.
Queensland shut its state borders to successfully contain the coronavirus outbreak, but reopened to all but residents of Victoria, Australia’s worst affected region, two weeks ago.
The city of Melbourne in Victoria recorded 270 new coronavirus infections overnight, with more than 4,000 cases now active across the state. Melbourne is one week into a six-week lockdown in an attempt to stop a spike in new cases there.
Health experts have warned that outbreaks that had been brought under control with shutdowns and other forms of social distancing were likely to flare again as precautions were relaxed.
Disney officials announced that Hong Kong Disneyland Park is closing Wednesday until further notice following the city’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than four people to combat newly spreading infections.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced new coronavirus-related restrictions on Monday after 41 out of 52 newly reported infections were locally transmitted cases. Hong Kong has reported 250 new cases since July 6. Lam urged the private sector to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees.
In Thailand, where there have been no reports of locally transmitted cases for seven weeks, authorities have revised rules governing visitors from abroad after a breakdown in screening led to two infected foreigners posing a possible risk to public health.