Around 5 million Australians are now back under a strict lockdown after a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the country's second-largest city. As of midnight Wednesday, Melbourne residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential business, reports Reuters. The restrictions will be in place for at least six weeks. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria state, and the military has helped close the border with New South Wales. Melbourne currently has around 860 active COVID-19 cases. Australia as a whole has reported around 9,000 coronavirus cases and 106 deaths, fewer than many US states, including Rhode Island and Delaware. In other developments:
- Pence says latest wave is flattening out. Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Wednesday that the US has now recorded more than 3 million cases, but he defended the administration's handling of the pandemic and said the recent surge in cases seems to be flattening out, the BBC reports. "While we mourn with those who mourn, because of what the American people have done, because of the extraordinary work of our healthcare workers around the country, we are encouraged that the average fatality rate continues to be low and steady," he said.
- Birx calls for return to Phase 1 guidelines. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's pandemic response coordinator, said Wednesday that states experiencing steep rises in infections should revert to the White House's Phase 1 guidelines, CNN reports. She says people in affected states should wear masks and avoid indoor events, including gatherings in people's homes as well as indoor dining in restaurants,
- Biden accuses Trump of "waving a white flag." Joe Biden said Wednesday that hitting 3 million cases is "another sad reminder of the cost our country is paying for President Trump’s failure to lead us through this crisis," the Washington Post reports. "Trump claimed to the American people that he was a wartime leader, but instead of taking responsibility, Trump has waved a white flag," Biden said, urging the administration to "finally provide science-based leadership on re-opening safely."
- Daily count doubles in Spain. Spain, which is dealing with dozens of local coronavirus outbreaks after emerging from lockdown weeks ago, said the daily infection count had risen from 124 on Tuesday to 257 Wednesday, the AP reports. The Catalan city of Lleida has been placed under a localized lockdown.
- Trudeau: Canada handled pandemic better than US. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that his government had done a better job of dealing with the pandemic than the US and other countries. "We were able to control the virus better than many of our allies, particularly including our neighbor," he said, per Reuters. He warned, however, that there are still virus "hotspots" in Canada and "we still have to be very careful." Canada has recorded around 108,000 coronavirus cases and 8,700 deaths.
- PPE: Pence also said Wednesday that the US will be putting out new guidance to healthcare workers urging them to "preserve and reuse" face masks and other personal protective equipment when possible.
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