Dear Ireland, a second coronavirus lockdown will be tough but be brave and go on

Dear Ireland,

I’m writing to you from Melbourne, Victoria, in week 15 of our second lockdown, just as you enter yours.

I think we need to talk about sourdough.

And Netflix. And maybe even golf courses — but more on them later.

With the first one: forget about it. The bakers of Ireland, essential workers all, will need your support. So don’t worry about that “Lockdown Mark I bread-making” obsession. It just doesn’t feel as comforting and charming the second time around.

Bugger it. Get it home delivered.

About Netflix. Yep — just like the first time, you’ll be watching a lot of it now that you’re going back into a second COVID lockdown. I’m afraid it’s mostly the same stuff, but you’ll know you’re starting to feel like your pandemic strategy is working and things are getting better when you ditch the comedy and turn to the documentaries.

Forget about becoming a lockdown sourdough baker: get it home delivered because the bakers of Ireland, essential workers all, will need your support.(Supplied: John Farnan)

This is going to get worse

As I write, this Australian state has recorded one new infection and no new deaths.

That’s right, just one new infection.

The day our premier told us we were shutting down again after the worldwide lockdown most of us went through in March, there were 191 new cases. One month after that, with curfews and even further restrictions looming, the number had grown to 732.

I’m sorry Ireland, but just like your mum might have told you when you came down with the measles — this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Our state has a population not too much greater than yours, but your infection rate is higher than ours ever went. Back in our dark days, with infections rising by the hundreds, it was hard to avoid a sense of panic — but panic at what? At the fear that a shutdown would kill off the very life of a city and state that we were trying so hard to save?

You view rectilinear windows with red borders across three storeys on a modernist public housing tower.
Back in our dark days, with infections rising by the hundreds, it was hard to avoid a sense of panic.(Supplied: Chris McLay)

Or was it panic that we could not get this thing back in the bottle? That when community spread is this wide, it’s too late?

When Victoria’s stage 4 lockdown started on July 8, with its ban on travelling no more than 5km from home, and limit to one essential shopping trip a day, the idea of achieving the Government’s target of less than an average of five daily cases seemed absurd.

Today, we are three days away from the original next step out of lockdown — and the 14-day average is 5.8. No, we can’t quite believe it either.

I wish you good luck

So, I write to wish you good luck with your lockdown. Our strategies are very similar. Although, unlike ours, your kids will keep going to school, and just getting them out the door each morning will make life so much easier and help maintain a sense of rhythm and normality that has been impossible for tens of thousands of families here.

You have a pandemic unemployment payment too — that’s good. Fight to keep it for as long as you can.

As for golf courses: do you also have those high-profile loudmouths who feel that being denied 18-holes twice a week is the greatest infringement on their personal liberties since Julian Assange was taken away? I can’t advise you on what to do about those people. I know one of them, and he has the kind of job and lifestyle that when we finally re-opened the courses here, he took a week off and played golf seven days straight. They’re just a different kind of human, they are.

Beyond that, I think you know how this goes. You have to try to find some pattern within the monotony and take joy from the clever way your community will create enchantment.

A local pub will become an absolute hero for its home-delivered meals and emergency beer. Chain letters from the neighbourhood kids will appear in your letterbox. High holidays and Holy days will be commemorated from your front door. And it will feel strangely intimate, and very beautiful.

Be brave. Go on

Dear Ireland, ancestral homeland of so many of us Australians: if I was to distil all this to postcard-size, I’d say — it’s worth it. The sacrifice is worth it.

No, we don’t really know what the full economic impact will be: we can’t see the bottom yet, but some of our best-regarded economists predict a “beautiful” recovery — they say we’ll fairly roar out of it as we head into Christmas.

But even if recovery is slower and harder than that — and like you, we will recover, we are that kind of people — know that you are doing the right thing. You closed down so that when you open up again, you’ll have as many of your fellow citizens with you as a humane and careful society can hope to have. Be brave. Go on.

St. Patrick's Day punters in Sydney
Ireland is the ancestral home of so many Australians.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

Back here, you can consider the US President’s weird email blitz or life on an all-meat diet. Hayley Gleeson’s excellent investigation of family violence by serving police officers, and this explainer by Matilda Marozzi, are the stories you cannot look away from.

Have a safe and happy weekend and let your microwave do the cooking tonight as we all settle in for an AFL grand final like no other — Saturday night football! A box of 24 frozen party pies should do it. Yes, I’m serious.

The reviews of Netflix’s remake of the Daphne du Maurier classic Rebecca are in — and I’m afraid they are not good.

This is devastating as it’s one of my touchstone books, and a novel I return to again and again. I recently sat down with author Tegan Bennett Daylight to discuss why I can’t shake this story.

If Rebecca — smart, beautiful, wilful and occasionally cruel — was a song I think she’d be this.


Go well.

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Coronavirus live news: Wales ‘firebreak’ lockdown begins; Spanish PM says cases closer to 3m | World news







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Police arrest demonstrators at Melbourne protest against Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Hundreds of protesters calling for an end to Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown have clashed with police in Melbourne.

Police used pepper spray during scuffles with some of the demonstrators — many of whom refused to wear masks — at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Police arrested 16 people and issued 96 penalty notices for offences including not wearing a mask, breaching public gathering directions, travelling more than 25 kilometres from home, assaulting police and failing to state their name and address.

“Victoria Police was extremely disappointed to yet again arrest a large number of protestors who showed a complete disregard for the safety of the broader community and the directions of the Chief Health Officer (CHO),” police said in a statement.

Many of the demonstrators were not wearing face masks.(AAP: James Ross)

Police describe protesters as ‘selfish’

Police said they were investigating an incident where several police horses were hit in the face with a flagpole by a man.

“Thankfully the horses were not injured during the assaults,” the police statement said.

Officers are also investigating damage to a police van after it was pelted with items thrown by protesters.

Three police officers were injured, with one taken to hospital as a precaution.

“Victoria Police will not accept the selfish behaviour of those who continue to breach the CHO directions,” the police statement said.

An aerial image shows police surrounding demonstrators at an anti-lockdown protest at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
Police surrounded demonstrators at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.(ABC News)

About 200 to 300 people were estimated to have attended the rally, making it one of the larger events of its kind over the past few months against Premier Daniel Andrews’s tough measures to control COVID-19 infections.

Protesters in the Shrine forecourt held placards with slogans such as “media is the virus”, “COVID-19 is a scam” and “wake up Aussies”.

Some were wearing t-shirts that said “let Victoria work”.

Many people pulled their face masks under their chin or were not wearing them at all.

Officers surrounded the protesters on foot, with more forming an outer wall, and many were on horseback.

Protesters could face two separate fines for attending the rally at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius warned that protesters could fall foul of legislation governing behaviour at the Shrine.

A group of masked police officers scuffle with a man who is on the ground.
Police have made several arrests.(AAP: James Ross)

While some lockdown rules have been eased this week, Melburnians can still travel no more than 25 kms from their homes and are not permitted to have visitors to their home, except for permitted reasons.

They also can be fined if they gather in groups of more than 10 from more than two households, and must wear masks as well as social distance.

Premier calls protesters ‘selfish’

Earlier, when asked about the demonstration at his daily press conference, the Premier said the protest was unhelpful.

“Protests are not safe. Protests are selfish,” Mr Andrews said.

“Protests are potentially very dangerous to the strategy we have in place.

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Speaking before the protest, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Shrine was no place for demonstrations.

“We want to get the place open and make announcements on Sunday, and if people are out protesting, that does not help.

“I think common decency would see people only go to the Shrine when they wanted to remember and to appropriately commemorate the sacrifice of hundred of thousands of others.

That is what the Shrine is about — it is not about making political points one way or the other.”

Three men with face masks below their chins stand in a crowd.
Protesters chanted slogans including “free Victoria”.(AAP: James Ross)

There were scuffles and several arrests last month as police broke up a protest at the Shrine.

A website for the protest tells participants: “Daniel Andrews must resign and lockdowns must end. Restore our freedoms now.”


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Police arrest anti-lockdown demonstrators at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

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Czech health minister asked to resign after breaking coronavirus rules

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Friday he will meet with the country’s president later in the day to discuss a possible replacement of the minister, Roman Prymula.

“There’s no other solution than his resignation from the post,” Babis said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Deputy Minister of Health Roman Prymula addresses a press conference after the government talks on new measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: March, 2020) (AP)

“If we want the people to abide by the rules … it is us who have to set an example,” Babis said. “We can’t preach water and drink wine.”

The Blesk tabloid daily said Prymula met with Jaroslav Faltynek, deputy head of the senior government ANO, or YES, movement led by Babis in a Prague restaurant on Wednesday night. Photographs published in the paper showed that Prymula also didn’t wear a mandatory face mask.

Restaurants are closed in the Czech Republic because of the pandemic, and it wasn’t immediately clear if the establishment was open or if the owner only allowed Prymula and Faltynek in to dine there.

The revelation has shocked the country, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic. At Prymula’s request, the government has approved tight restrictions to slow the surge that is threatening the entire health system.

The junior government coalition party, the Social Democrats, joined the opposition to demand Prymula’s resignation, calling his behaviour “absolutely unacceptable.”

Prymula denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down, further escalating the crisis. He said he was invited to participate in a meeting with a hospital director and only went through the restaurant to a private space where it took place.

“I haven’t broken anything,” he said.

A man wearing a face mask carries his dog across the medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020
A man wearing a face mask carries his dog across the medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 (AP)

Faltynek apologised for the meeting and said he asked Prymula to meet to discuss a special parliamentary session that is set to approve a plan for NATO military medical personnel to come to the Czech Republic to help their local colleagues.

Before he became health minister, Prymula was a deputy health minister who led the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic for a time in the spring.

The country recorded a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases and deaths then compared to hard-hit Western European countries such as Italy, Spain and Britain.

Prymula, an epidemiologist, later assumed a different post, as a government health care envoy.

He was appointed only a month ago as a “crisis manager” to lead the country’s response to the pandemic as new infections were on a steep rise.

Prymula became health minister on September 12, and he imposed a series of tough regulations in attempts to slow the steep rise of infections. Bars, restaurants and schools are closed, as well as theatres, cinemas, zoos and many other locations. Professional sports competitions are banned.

Just hours before the incident in the restaurant, Prymula and Babis announced the country was returning to a lockdown like in the spring with new restrictions that limit movement, close many stores and services and limit public gatherings to two.

Prymula said the health system would collapse around November 10 if the measures weren’t taken, Prymula said.

Calling the current situation dramatic, he recently tweeted in one of his videos: “I’d like to call on all of you to stay, if possible, at home.”

The day-to-day increase of new confirmed cases reached 14,151 on Thursday, the second biggest after a record of almost 15,000 set a day earlier. The country has confirmed 223,065 positive cases, about a third of them in the last seven days while 1,845 have died.

The number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 is 4,777, with 735 in serious condition.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 32.81 new cases per 100,000 people on October 7 to 92.88 new cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday.

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Russia Surpasses 17K Coronavirus Cases in New One-Day Record

Russia confirmed 17,340 new coronavirus cases Friday, setting a new one-day record as the country grapples with a second wave of the virus.

This is the first time that Russia has confirmed more than 17,000 Covid-19 infections in a single day.

Friday’s increase pushes the overall number of Covid-19 cases in Russia to 1,480,646, or 1% of the country’s population. Russia has the world’s fourth-highest number of Covid-19 cases.

Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s outbreak, confirmed 5,478 new Covid-19 cases.

Russia’s national coronavirus information center said 283 people died from the disease Friday, a decrease from the record 317 Covid-19 deaths confirmed Wednesday. 

Russia’s overall Covid-19 death toll based on aggregated daily figures from regional crisis centers stands at 25,525.

Monthly statistics published by Russia’s state statistics agency Rosstat place the real number of coronavirus deaths at 45,663 between April and August, the latest available month, with a mortality ratio of 4.6% against the global rate of 3-4%. 

Russia has reported record numbers of new infections and deaths over the past week as disease experts warn that its regions could see a second wave that is 10 times worse than the first.

President Vladimir Putin pledged to avoid returning to strict lockdown measures like those Russia imposed in spring despite the record-setting rise in new Covid-19 cases. Authorities have introduced targeted measures at what they deem to be coronavirus hotspots to slow the spread of the disease.

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Coronavirus: Second COVID-19 wave faster than the first, warns top European scientist | World News

The coronavirus second wave is spreading more quickly than the first outbreak in spring, a top French scientist has warned, amid a growing resurgence of the virus across Europe.

“The virus is circulating more quickly… the resurgence of the pandemic started in August,” French government scientific adviser Arnaud Fontanet told BFM TV on Friday.

He said France had managed to bring the virus under control by the end of the June, and because the number of people being taken to hospital remained low until the end of August, authorities were given a false sense of security despite cases already going up at the time.

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Europe sees new COVID restrictions

“And then there was one cold week in September and all the indicators went the wrong way again all over Europe. The virus spreads better in the cold because we live more inside,” said the epidemiologist.

“Hospitals and medical staff will find themselves in a situation they’ve already known,” he said.

“We have a lot of tools to protect ourselves against the virus but we’re facing a difficult period,” he added, echoing Prime Minister Jean Castex, who warned of a “tough November” as the French government extended a curfew imposed last week on Paris and eight other cities to dozens more areas.

The 9pm to 6am curfew comes into force at midnight tonight and 46 million people – almost two-thirds of the country’s 67 million population – will be affected.

“A second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is now under way in France and Europe. The situation is very serious,” Mr Castex said at a news conference.

On Thursday, the country reported a record 41,622 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Parisiens in masks near the Eiffel Tower
Parisiens in face masks near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where a stricter curfew is in force

The national figure now stands at more than one million infections, and more than 34,200 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University which has been tracking the outbreak.

Countries across Europe, like in the UK, are returning to restrictive measures following a surge in cases.

Belgium, one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, further tightened restrictions on social contacts on Friday, banning fans from sports matches, limiting the number of people in cultural spaces and closing theme parks.

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European hospitals under COVID pressure

Although infection rates in Germany have been much lower than other COVID hotspots in Europe, cases have been accelerating and hit a record 11,247 on Thursday.

Across Europe, 20 countries set new daily case records on Wednesday, including the UK, which saw a rise of 26,688.

The Czech Republic, which is seeing Europe’s biggest surge in COVID-19 cases, has ordered most shops and services to close to curb the spread of the virus.

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The Netherlands has also returned to partial lockdown, closing bars and restaurants, but kept schools open.

And Spain became the first country in western Europe this week to record one million coronavirus cases – doubling its tally in just six weeks.

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Coronavirus latest: Demand for cars, elevators and dishwashers lifts earnings in Europe

Peter Wells in New York

The similarities between the latest stage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US and its surge over the summer are mounting up, with the country now averaging more than 60,000 cases a day for the first time since early August, and the highest level of hospitalisations in two months.

States reported 76,560 cases, according to Covid Tracking Project data, up from 57,294 on Wednesday and compared with 63,172 on Thursday last week.

The latest rise in infections ranks as the biggest since a record 76,588 cases were reported on July 17, however this ranking comes with a major caveat. Wednesday data from Alabama, Florida and Georgia “were not available” before Covid Tracking Project’s cut-off time for reporting that day, and therefore were not included in yesterday’s report.

These older cases were included in today’s figures, thereby boosting the most recent tally.

Rankings aside, the trend in the US remains clear. Over the past week, the country has now averaged 60,951 cases a day, the most since August 1.

Among those that reported the biggest one-day increases were Texas (6,291 including new and historical cases), Illinois (4,942), Wisconsin (3,632, including confirmed and probable cases). Indiana (2,850), Ohio (2,425), Utah (1,543), Montana (928) and New Mexico (819) had record increases, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

There are 41,010 people currently in US hospitals with coronavirus, the highest level since August 20, when 41,988 hospitalisations were reported. Eight states reported record levels of hospitalisations on Thursday.

Deaths are also experiencing an upward trend. A further 1,173 fatalities were attributed to coronavirus, up from 994 on Wednesday and compared with 951 on Thursday last week.

This would rank as the biggest increase in deaths since 1,200 on September 16 but, again, the absence of Wednesday data from Alabama, Florida and Georgia in Covid Tracking Project’s snapshot means Thursday’s figure is probably boosted by these delayed numbers.

Over the past week, the US has averaged about 755 deaths a day, the highest level in a month.

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Coronavirus: Greater Manchester moves into tightest restrictions of Tier 3 | UK News

Greater Manchester has moved into the highest coronavirus alert level of Tier 3, joining Lancashire and Liverpool City Region.

The region’s pubs and bars will be closed for 28 days unless they are serving “substantial meals”. Casinos, bingo halls and bookies will also be closed.

Social mixing is banned indoors and in private gardens, and the rule of six applies in outdoor settings such as parks, public gardens and sports venues.

Wales will begin its two-week lockdown at 6pm on Friday, while Coventry, Stoke and Slough enter Tier 2 on Saturday and South Yorkshire enters Tier 3.

Meanwhile, talks continue between the government and leaders in Nottingham, Warrington and West Yorkshire as to whether those areas will move toTier 3.

On Thursday, 21,242 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the UK, along with 189 deaths among people who had tested positive in the 28 days before they died.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also admitted that the test and trace system, which he previously insisted would be “world beating”, needed improvement.

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Latest figures show that less than 60% of close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in England are being reached – the lowest weekly percentage since the scheme began.

Meanwhile, just 15% of people tested for COVID-19 in England at an in-person site are receiving their result within 24 hours.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the system’s weaknesses could be “diminishing the effectiveness”, adding that there is “room for improvement”.

Sir Patrick also showed modelling that estimates between 53,000 and 90,000 people are being infected with COVID-19 each day in England.

In other coronavirus news:

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