Australia's worst-hit state of Victoria reported 15 coronavirus deaths, including a man in his 30s, making it the country's deadliest day of the pandemic to date.

An outbreak in Melbourne, Australia's second-biggest city and the capital of Victoria, has seen hundreds of new cases recorded daily in recent weeks, including 725 today.

The epidemic surge continued even though Melbourne has been under a stay-at-home lockdown for nearly a month.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a press conference that the latest fatalities included one man in his 30s and 12 other deaths linked to care homes for the elderly.

Victoria's Premier, Daniel Andrews

The virus has spread rapidly through nursing homes in the city, with almost 1,500 active infections now linked to the facilities.

Authorities imposed an overnight curfew in Melbourne from Monday, have closed non-essential businesses and ordered mandatory mask-wearing as authorities try to bring the outbreak under control.


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Mr Andrews said all but the most urgent elective surgeries would now be postponed "until further notice" to ease the strain on hospitals.

"The sickest patients must get treated quickest," he said.

"This is a regrettable decision but it is very important one in order to preserve sufficient capacity in our entire health system."

Australia has now recorded more than 19,000 cases of coronavirus and 247 deaths from the virus.

Victoria state is imposing fines for the non-wearing of face coverings

Victoria has been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country, with residents banned from visiting leaving except in limited circumstances.

Other states and territories are continuing to detect few or no new daily cases.

Countries tighten measures as global virus death toll top 700,000
             
France and the Netherlands are gearing up for stricter mask-wearing rules to fight the coronavirus as the global death toll from the pandemic topped 700,000.

According to an AFP tally as of this morning, a total of 700,489 deaths have been recorded, out of 18,547,833 cases, of whom 10,889,745 have recovered.

Europe is the hardest hit region with 211,365 fatalities. 

Almost half of the deaths reported worldwide were in the four worst hit countries: the United States (156,806), Brazil (95,819), Mexico (48,869) and Britain (46,299).

Meanwhile, Paris, Toulouse and other cities announced that the wearing of masks would be compulsory in particularly busy streets and squares. People already have to wear them inside most private businesses and all public buildings.

A scientific committee advising the French government warned that the country could lose control of its spread "at any time."

In the Netherlands, the same mask-wearing measure will be applied in Rotterdam and the famous red-light district of Amsterdam from today.

Ireland postponed the reopening of pubs and other nightspots on public health advice amid concern about a rise in cases.

The Czech Republic reported its biggest daily jump in new coronavirus cases since the end of June.

It recorded 290 new cases yesterday, Health Ministry data showed, bringing the total number of cases detected to 17,286.

Of those, 11,812 have recovered and 383 have died.

Philippines resumes lockdown 

Millions of people in the Philippines have been ordered to stay home in a bid to contain the rising rate of infections, and relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

More than 27 million people on the main island of Luzon, including the capital Manila, went back into a partial lockdown.

People have been told to stay home unless going out to buy essential goods, for exercise or for work, after the number of recorded infections surged past 100,000. 

More than 18 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus since it first emerged in China late last year. 

The worst hit country, the United States, had added 1,300 new deaths as of yesterday evening, bringing its toll to nearly 156,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The caseload grew by 53,847 to nearly 4.8 million, it said.

Far from slowing down, the latest figures show that the rate of infection is accelerating.

Brazil is driving a surge in Latin America and the Caribbean, where infections passed five million on Monday. 

South America's largest country has recorded more than 2.75 million cases, and nearly 95,000 deaths, nearly half the region's 203,800 deaths.

US announces clinical trials 

The world's hope of ending the current cycle of outbreaks and lockdowns rests on finding a treatment.

The United States announced yesterday that it had begun late-stage clinical trials into a drug it hopes will be an antibody against the coronavirus.

The Phase 3 trial will initially enroll some 300 volunteers around the world who have been hospitalised with mild to moderate Covid-19 with fewer than 13 days of symptoms.

Despite the grim numbers in the US, President Donald Trump adopted a resolutely optimistic tone.

"We're seeing indications that our strong mitigation efforts are working very well, actually, especially to protect those who are most at risk," he said during a White House press conference addressing the pandemic.