SINGAPORE: Most countries across the world imposed lockdowns and restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.
While many countries are slowly opening up, several cities and regions in Asia and Australia have reintroduced tighter measures - after initially easing curbs - following spikes in the number of infections in recent weeks.
India’s IT hub Bangalore went into lockdown again this week, after emerging as a new hotspot for COVID-19 infections in the country.
The seven-day lockdown began at 8am on Tuesday (Jul 14), during which transport is banned except for emergencies and only shops selling essential items are allowed to open.
Places of worship and government offices will also be closed, while schools and restaurants will remain shut. People will be confined to their homes and only allowed out for essential needs.
Bangalore had only about 1,000 cases in mid-June, but this has grown to nearly 20,000 by Monday. Experts blamed this increase on the lifting of restrictions in June, when the Indian government ended the national lockdown to ease the pandemic’s impact on the economy.
India now has more than 1 million cases of COVID-19, the third highest toll in the world behind the US and Brazil, and more than 25,000 deaths.
IT firms in Bangalore handling the back-office operations of global corporations are allowed to operate with only 50 per cent of staff in the premises at any one time.
READ: India locks down more than 125 million as COVID-19 cases surge across globe
The coastal region of Goa became the latest Indian state to go on lockdown, imposing a three-day shutdown from Friday and a nighttime curfew until Aug 10.
This is due to too many people “stepping out to meet people at parties” and a low level of “awareness and sensitivity”, says Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
During the curfew, movement for all non-essential activities are prohibited between 8pm to 6am. All individuals are also banned from going on all non-essential activities during this time, Indian news outlet Livemint reported.
The local government also ordered a ban on restaurants and F&B outlets, public transport, markets, all shops, offices and sports complexes in north Goa, with the exception of those deemed essential and taxi services.
Authorities in the Australian state of Victoria imposed a lockdown on about five million people in Melbourne last week in a bid to contain a new outbreak of COVID-19.
The state reported a record increase of 428 new infections and three new deaths on Friday, a day after logging a previous high of 317 new cases.
Residents have been ordered to stay at home and only leave for essential business.
Premier Daniel Andrews warned that restrictions could be extended, singling out a minority of people defying lockdown orders.
"If, however, people do not do the right thing then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and potentially prolong ... these restrictions," he told reporters in Melbourne.
READ: 'In the fight of our lives': Australia's Victoria state reports second day of record COVID-19 cases
Australia was lauded for its handling of the pandemic last month, but has seen a surge in new cases in recent weeks.
However, security lapses in Victoria led to people returning from overseas spreading the virus. This prompted an inquiry into how the state went from the brink of eradicating the virus to rising infection numbers.
The country now has more than 11,000 cases, with 116 fatalities.
"A particular concern for us is the ongoing parties and gatherings," said Rick Nugent, acting assistant commissioner of Victoria state. "Please stop."
The Philippine government imposed a new two-week lockdown on about 250,000 people in Navotas City after a spike in infections in the past two weeks.
The city, home to Manila’s main fishing port, has now reported 931 confirmed cases and 59 deaths.
"We have no choice but to do it because people are so stubborn," said mayor Toby Tiangco, referring to people flouting social distancing rules.
READ: Philippine police deployed as COVID-19 cases forced into quarantine
Residents will be allowed to go to work and shops and businesses can remain open. Restaurants, however, will only be allowed to do take-away orders and outdoor exercise will be banned.
This will be the biggest stay-at-home order since the capital ordered a sweeping lockdown in mid-March.
Manila, the centre of the Philippines’ COVID-19 outbreak, only began to reopen in mid-June, with limited public transport availability and offices only allowed skeleton staff in the premises.
However, the relaxation of the rules and the return of thousands of overseas workers have seen a surge in the country’s case numbers. A record 2,539 new cases were logged on Jul 9, with most days this month seeing more than 1,000 new cases.
It now has the second-highest number in Southeast Asia, with more than 57,000 cases and 1,599 deaths.
Local governments have since re-issued lockdown orders on several neighbourhoods in an effort to curb the spread.
Hong Kong, which was previously hailed for its success in handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported more than 200 local infections in the last two weeks.
The city had managed to largely curb local transmissions in recent months, but new infection clusters started to emerge earlier this month, including at a housing estate and an elderly care home.
About 70 of the new cases are currently unlinked, with authorities struggling to trace the spread of the disease.
Tougher measures went into effect starting Wednesday, including orders for bars, gyms, nightclubs and beauty salons to shut and a ban on gatherings of more than four people.
Restaurants are allowed to seat customers for breakfast and lunch – with a maximum of four people per table – but can only serve takeaway from 6pm to 5am. Schools were also suspended on Monday, but will be allowed to hold important examinations.
READ: Hong Kong reimposes tough new COVID-19 restrictions
Hong Kongers have widely adopted face masks since the early days of the pandemic, but passengers on public transport are now required to wear them or risk a US$650 fine.
"This is a time for tightening," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday, adding the measures would be reviewed every seven days.
"Unless we have an effective vaccine which can be widely used in the community, we may need to co-exist with the virus for a period of time.”