Australia's second largest state declares a disaster

A state of disaster was declared in Australia's Victoria on Sunday (Aug 2) with a nightly curfew imposed for its capital Melbourne as a part of its harshest restrictions of movement to date.

The measures were announced by regional premier Daniel Andrews.

"Regional Victoria will move to Stage Three restrictions, that's stay at home except for the four reasons to leave, that will mean that restaurants, cafes, bars, gyms, a whole range of other settings we are well and truly acquainted with those will need to close from midnight next Wednesday. That is not the position we wanted to be in but we cannot have a situation where this continues to grow and grow in regional Victoria."

The curfew - from 8pm until 5am - bars Melbourne's nearly five million population from leaving their houses except to receive or give care or for work.

Australia's second largest city, already under a reimposed six-week stay-at-home order, has struggled to contain the new coroanvirus, with a record number of infections reported last week.

On Sunday Victoria confirmed 671 new cases, one of its highest, and seven COVID-19 deaths.

The new restrictions will limit the amount of time Melbourne residents can spend on outdoor exercise and essential shopping and schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday (Aug 5).

The state of disaster, which was supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, also gives police additional powers to ensure the public comply with the measures.

Australia has fared better than many countries in containing the spread of the new coronavirus - though at a high economic cost.

It has recorded around 18,000 coronavirus cases but authorities say more than 11,500 of those are in Victoria where the recent surge has proved difficult to contain.