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Coronavirus digest: Total number of cases hits 40 million

Australia's second-largest city has lifted most of its restrictions on the same day as several European states reintroduced stricter regimes. Meanwhile, the known global caseload has hit 40 million. Follow DW for more.

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The total number of recorded cases worldwide ticked over to 40 million early on Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. The milestone coincides with accelerating numbers of cases across much of Europe.

The true number of people to have contracted the virus is not known for a number of reasons: testing capacity was scant early in the pandemic; some carriers can exhibit few or even no symptoms; and some countries are suspected of underplaying their numbers or of failing to enthusiastically track down potential carriers.

Asia-Pacific

In Australia, residents of the second-largest city, Melbourne, have been allowed to leave their houses for more than two hours a day for the first time since July. The city's residents had been barred from leaving their homes with a few exceptions, such as shopping for essentials, exercising or going to work. They still, however, face a number of travel and other restrictions.

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, is also set to start relaxing restrictions as the number of new cases continues to fall. From Friday, the number of people who can gather outdoors and attend weddings will increase.

In New Zealand, a case originally thought to be the first instance of community transmission in three weeks has been found to likely be the result of an infection on a cruise ship that arrived from Australia, officials said Monday.

Genome testing showed that the infection, identified on Sunday, was a strain of coronavirus not detected in New Zealand before, according to director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield. New Zealand currently has 37 active cases.

Read moreNew Zealand records first coronavirus death in 3 months 

China has recorded 4.9% year-on-year economic growth for the third quarter, with consumer spending and industrial production rising to pre-pandemic levels. China was the first country to record coronavirus cases and was among the first to start reopening its economy.

Europe

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 4,325 to 366,299, while the death toll has risen by 12 to 9,789, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The figures come as Germany grapples with a second wave of infections, with daily caseloads last week exceeding previous records from the spring.  

Meanwhile, patients suffering from mild respiratory diseases in Germany can be given sick leave for up to seven calendar days by telephone from Monday. Diagnoses can be made following an extensive telephone survey with the patient, with the goal being to keep people out of waiting rooms. 

Additionally, Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder has called for mask-wearing to be made compulsory in crowded outdoor places in areas of Germany where case numbers are particularly high. 

Read moreCoronavirus: German minister warns against new wave of panic-buying 

A midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew will come into effect in Belgium on Monday, while cafes and restaurants will close across the country for four weeks. Sales of alcohol will also not be permitted later than 8 p.m.. Belgium, a country of roughly 11.5 million people, has seen more than 10,000 deaths and 213,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

In France, health officials on Monday reported 13,243 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, sharply down from Saturday's record of 32,427 and Sunday's 29,837.

Auhorities said the number of people in intensive care units went beyond the 2,000 threshold on Monday, a first since May 17th, putting renewed strain on the French hospital system.

The total number of people hospitalized for the disease climbed above 11,000 for the first time since June 12th.

Sources close to French president Emmanuel Macron told AFP that the First Lady, Brigitte Macron, would self-isolate for the next seven days after it emerged that she had contact with someone infected with coronavirus.

The same sources said she is not showing any symptoms at present, but that she will miss a planned memorial service on Wednesday for the teacher killed by an Islamist militant last week. 

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has called on European leaders to urgently distribute the EU's €750 billion ($878 billion) recovery fund, in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde.

"The commission's aim is to be able to distribute these funds at the beginning of 2021, and this timeline must be kept," said Lagarde. "We also need rapid progress on the political side, in particular the adoption of measures by national parliaments."

The former French finance minister urged leaders to consider making the recovery fund permanent and setting up a permanent budget for the eurozone.

Switzerland is introducing new restrictions on Monday, including the broadening of a mask mandate and limitations on social gatherings. Face and nose coverings are required in public indoor areas, while gatherings of more than 15 people have been forbidden.

Italy has also announced new restrictions coming into force this week. They allow mayors to close public squares and other gathering places after 9 p.m., while restaurants and bars are restricted to table service only after 6 p.m.. Local festivals have been banned. 

Wales will go into a full lockdown starting on October 23 and ending on November 9, according to First Minister Mark Drakeford. Drakeford said the lockdown offered the "best chance of regaining control of the virus" following a surge in cases.

Africa

In South Africa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and his wife have tested positive for the virus, health officials announced Sunday. South Africa is Africa's hardest-hit country, with over 700,000 recorded cases and 18,408 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

lc/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)