Authorities in Australia’s southern state of Victoria have extended a one-week lockdown for its capital, Melbourne, to contain the spread of a new COVID-19 outbreak.
The lockdown was initially imposed across the entire state last week after health officials detected a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was rapidly spreading across Victoria state. The latest outbreak has been linked to an overseas traveler who became infected with a variant first detected in India during his mandatory hotel quarantine phase.
Health officials announced six new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 60.
“If we let this thing run its course, it will explode," Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne. “We’ve got to run this to ground because if we don’t, people will die.”
Although Melbourne’s 5 million residents will remain under strict restrictions until June 10, the lockdown measures have been lifted for residents in regional Victoria, with limits on public and private gatherings and restaurant capacity.
The new lockdown is the fourth one imposed on Melbourne and Victoria state since the start of the pandemic. The most severe period occurred in mid-2020, which lasted more than three months as Victoria was under the grip of a second wave of COVID-19 infections that killed more than 800 people.
Moderna seeking full FDA authorization
In the United States, Moderna said Tuesday it is seeking full authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 vaccine for adults 18 years old and older. The Moderna two-shot vaccine is one of three coronavirus vaccines the FDA authorized for emergency use in the United States, playing a major role in the steadily declining number of new infections in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say more than 150 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been distributed since the emergency use authorization was granted last December.
Moderna announced last week that it will apply for emergency use authorization this month to administer the vaccine to young people after discovering it was safe and effective for children between 12 and 17 years old. If approved, it will join the two-shot vaccine developed by Pfizer and Bio N Tech that was authorized for use in 12 to 15 years old last month.
Brazil to host soccer tournament
Brazil confirmed Tuesday that it will host the troubled Copa America soccer tournament despite warnings of an upcoming new wave of new infections.
President Jair Bolsonaro said the tournament, which will take place from June 13 to July 10, will be held in the capital Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Cuiaba and Goiania.
The tournament’s organizers, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), announced Monday it was moving the upcoming event to Brazil due to a surge of new COVID-19 infections in Argentina, which was co-hosting the tournament with Colombia, which is unable to stage the tournament because of massive anti-government street protests.
Scientists in Brazil are concerned about hosting a tournament in a nation with a more transmissible COVID-19 variant, with many predicting another wave of the disease to hit the country in a matter of weeks. The opposition Workers Party has filed an injunction with the Brazilian Supreme Court to block the tournament.
President Bolsonaro has come under heavy criticism for his apparently dismissive attitude toward the pandemic, and is the subject of a congressional investigation over his government’s management of the crisis.
Brazil trails only the United States and India in the total number of coronavirus cases with more than 16.6 million, and is second only to the U.S. in deaths at more than 465,199, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.