CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister says his government has avoided a major second wave of coronavirus infections on the scale of France, Germany or Britain by limiting international travel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described infection rates in those three countries as “rather alarming.”
He says they occurred because “people left, went to areas on leave, on holiday, where the virus was moving again and now they’re bringing it back.”
He says the Australian government has created “some real hardship” by restricting numbers of Australians allowed to come and go.
The government is blocking three out of four applications for Australians to leave the country for fear they could spread COVID-19 when they return.
Australians who want to return home are limited to 4,000 a week.
Morrison says, “As we’ve just seen in Europe, I think the wisdom of that approach has been borne out. That is not one problem that we have at the moment.”
Australia’s main coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, on Friday recorded its lowest daily tally of new infections in more than six weeks.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Report: Chinese mining company used COVID-19 vaccine in Papua New Guinea
— 1 in 5 nursing homes short on PPE and staff in virus rebound
— Pandemic’s toll among journalists in Peru is especially high
— As hospitals care for people with COVID-19 and try to prevent its spread, more patients are opting to be treated where they feel safest: at home.
— Governments around the world are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to justify crackdowns on press freedom.
— France’s president insisted that the country will send millions of students back to school starting Sept. 1 despite seeing the biggest weekly spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since the height of its outbreak in the spring.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 324 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest single day total since early March as the recent surge of COVID-19 in the greater capital area now appears to be spreading nationwide.
Friday was the eighth consecutive day that South Korea has reported a triple-digit daily increase, for an eight-day total of 1,900 infections.
Most of the recent new cases have been in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region. But officials said Friday the latest new infections were recorded in practically all major cities nationwide.
The daily jump was the highest since 367 cases were reported March 8. The country’s caseload is now at 16,670, including 309 deaths.
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s unemployment rate declined slightly last month but large numbers of people continue to be out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Thursday that Hawaii had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 13.1% in July, down from 13.4% in June.
The state’s jobless rate was just 2.4% in March.
The pandemic has forced many hotels to close, crippling the tourism industry that is Hawaii’s biggest employer. The labor department says the tourism industry continued to shed jobs in July but the education and health services sectors added workers.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has begun approving applications to reopen elementary schools for in-person instruction under special waivers approved by counties that were put on a state monitoring list because of high numbers of coronavirus infections.
The state hasn’t said how many have been approved statewide. But data from San Diego and Orange counties on Thursday showed that together they have had 50 schools approved. All of them are private and mostly religious, along with two small public school districts.
Orange County’s acting health officer says he has concerns about the reopenings but knows staying home causes hardship for children and parents.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state is reporting its lowest tally of new coronavirus cases in more than six weeks, following two weeks of unprecedented lockdown of the state capital, Melbourne.
Victoria’s Health Department reported on Saturday that the state had 179 new infections and nine deaths in the latest 24-hour period. That is the lowest count since 131 new infections were reported July 8. Victoria had recorded 240 new cases Thursday and 216 Wednesday.
State authorities say the daily infection rate will have to fall to single digits or low double digits before Melbourne’s lockdown is relaxed.
ROME — The Venice Film Festival is requiring participants at the first in-person cinema showcase of the COVID-19 era to wear facemasks during screenings and take a coronavirus test if they’re arriving from outside Europe.
According to guidelines published Thursday, fans and the general public will be kept away from the red carpet during the Sept. 2-12 festival, and movie-goers will have to buy tickets and reserve seats online to ensure every other seat is left vacant. Nine gates set up at various points around the Venice Lido will take temperatures of movie-goers and media. Festival-goers attending indoor events will be tracked to guarantee contact tracing if necessary.
Venice is the first film festival to get under way since the pandemic, and is one of the first major international events Italy is hosting after becoming the onetime COVID-19 epicenter in Europe. After getting infections under control with a strict, 10-week national lockdown that ended in May, Italy is now dealing with a rebound in cases as a result of summer vacation travel.
Biennale organizers said the guidelines were worked out with local health care officials.
BATON ROUGE, La. — U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana says he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing some symptoms of COVID-19. The Republican senator made the announcement Thursday and said he is quarantining in Louisiana.
His spokesperson says the 62-year-old senator is experiencing “mild symptoms that began this morning.” Cassidy, a physician, said in a statement that he was tested after being notified Wednesday night that he’d been exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus.
The senator says he is adhering to medical guidance and notifying people with whom he may have come into contact. Cassidy is running for reelection on Nov. 3.
Cassidy’s announcement came a day after he was in north Louisiana, visiting a veterans hospital in Shreveport.