What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Small toy figures are placed on a chalkboard near "Social distancing" printed words in this illustration

(Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:


Lockdown and testing blitz

Authorities will lock down around 300,000 people in more than 30 suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from midnight on Wednesday to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases in Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria.

Stage three restrictions will be imposed, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic. Residents will be confined to home except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.

The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz that authorities hope will extend to half the population of the area affected, and for which borders will be patrolled, authorities said. Victoria's spike in cases has been linked to staff members at hotels housing returned travellers for whom quarantine protocols were not strictly followed.


Operating in the shadow of a virus

Doctors and nurses at Yokohama City Seibu Hospital's critical care centre were among the first to mobilise during the pandemic in Japan, accepting sick passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February.

For months, the hospital took in patients rejected or referred by other hospitals. Once, Seibu admitted a coronavirus patient who had been rejected from nearly 100 hospitals in Tokyo, said Fumiaki Sano, the deputy director of the hospital.

Now, after experiencing one of the worst hospital coronavirus outbreaks in Japan with some 80 people testing positive for COVID-19, including 43 staff members, the hospital faces the prospect of operating in the shadow of a virus with no treatment or cure, with dozens of new safety protocols for everything from routine surgeries to dialysis.


United States off EU's safe travel list

The European Union has excluded the United States from its initial "safe list" of 14 countries from which the bloc will allow non-essential travel from Wednesday. The countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The move is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations and acts as a recommendation to EU members, meaning they could potentially set restrictions on those entering from the 14 nations.

Within hours of the EU announcement, Italy, which has one of the highest COVID death tolls in the world, said it would opt out and keep quarantine restrictions in place for all nations that were not part of the free-travel Schengen area.


Reinventing a nightclub

As Peru begins to ease its strict coronavirus lockdown, the country's biggest LGBTQ nightclub opened its doors on Tuesday, but there will be no nighttime revellers.

Instead of slinging cocktails at the bar or dancing on stage, ValeTodo Downtown's famed staff of drag queens like Belaluh McQueen will be selling customers daily household products as the space reopens as a market.

"You have to adapt to new challenges for the future," said McQueen, wearing a sequined suit, high heels and a mask as she headed back to work as a grocery store employee. In one small concession, a DJ will play club music as patrons shop.


(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)