Millions of people in Australia’s second-biggest city went into lockdown on Thursday to battle another coronavirus outbreak, as the number of infections worldwide surged past 12 million.
Caseloads and death tolls have risen relentlessly in many of the world’s biggest nations, with three million confirmed cases in the United States alone.
In Melbourne, five million people began a new lockdown just weeks after earlier restrictions ended as Australia battles a COVID-19 resurgence, with residents bracing for the emotional and economic costs.
“The idea of not being able to see people that you love and care for is really distressing, really distressing,” said a tearful Melbourne resident, Monica Marshall, whose 91-year-old mother recently entered a care home.
“I hope that people have got the message that they really need to take notice — it’s very disconcerting watching some people on the news where they really don’t care.”
With no vaccine or effective treatment available, experts have warned that social distancing is necessary to contain the virus — despite opposition in many parts of the world due to economic costs and misinformation.
Shoppers in Victoria state — of which Melbourne is the capital — stripped shelves bare on Wednesday before the lockdown began, and the country’s largest supermarket chain said it had reimposed buying limits on items including pasta, vegetables and sugar.
In Europe, where many nations have successfully suppressed their outbreaks, the French government said it remained on alert for a possible surge in cases too.
The global death toll from the virus is approaching 550,000, while about half of the 12 million reported cases have recovered.
Punishing lockdowns to try to prevent the spread of the disease have led to a catastrophic downturn in the world’s economies.