Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.
TOKYO—Many Asian-Pacific countries have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic remarkably well so far, recording some of the lowest case numbers anywhere and earning praise as models of how to handle the virus. But the sheen is coming off their performance. Many countries see cases ticking up sharply, triggered by complacency among officials, premature relaxation of control measures, and public fatigue with social distancing.
The most dramatic example is the Australian state of Victoria, which recorded a record 723 new COVID-19 cases on 30 July and declared a state of disaster 3 days later that empowers the government to impose an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on Melbourne. Only one person per household in the city is allowed to shop for essential goods once a day, and the state has closed its borders to traffic with the rest of the country, effectively confining its 6.7 million inhabitants. It’s a surprising reversal for a country that was once deemed close to eliminating local COVID-19 transmission. Victoria reported zero new cases on 9 June.