US, Europe battle fresh virus surges

Updated June 27, 2020

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Istanbul: Worshippers wearing protective face masks keep their social distance as they wait for Friday prayers at the Grand Camlica Mosque amid the spread of the coronavirus disease.—Reuters
Istanbul: Worshippers wearing protective face masks keep their social distance as they wait for Friday prayers at the Grand Camlica Mosque amid the spread of the coronavirus disease.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: The United States and Europe battled a resurgence of coronavirus cases as warnings mounted worldwide on Friday over reopening lockdowns too soon.

A major Australian city also faced a dangerous uptick in infections, leading to national steps against toilet paper hoarding, while the pandemic also continues to pummel Latin America.

More than 480,000 people worldwide have died from Covid-19 since it emerged in China late last year and cases are expected to reach 10 million across the globe within the next week.

Countries have been balancing the need to reopen economies shattered by coronavirus shutdowns with the need to maintain sufficient measures to prevent a feared second wave.

In the United States, after hitting a two-month plateau, the rate of new cases is now soaring in southern and western states, with the confirmed infection rate nearing levels last seen in April.

Texas was among the most aggressive states in reopening in early June but has now been forced to halt its phased reopening.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbott, an ally of President Donald Trump, who has faced sharp criticism for his handling of the crisis.

“This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread.” The United States recorded 37,667 cases and 692 deaths in 24 hours, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, with nearly 122,000 lives lost overall — by far the highest confirmed toll in the world.

US health officials now believe based on antibody surveys that some 24 million people may have already been infected — 10 times higher than the officially recorded figure of around 2.4 million.

In Latin America, Brazil, the hardest-hit country in the region, had close to 55,000 deaths and 1.2 million infections, while Mexico on Thursday surpassed 25,000 fatalities.

In Britain — which has the worst death toll in Europe so far with 43,230 lives lost — people were urged to abide by social distancing rules after tens of thousands of people descended on beaches during a heatwave.

The seaside resort of Bournemouth declared a major incident on Thursday after thousands flocked to its beach on the hottest day of the year.

Police also criticised the number of fans who gathered outside Liverpool’s Anfield ground on Thursday night after the club secured the English Premier League football title for the first time in 30 years.

“I do think we have to appeal to people to be careful here,” environment minister George Eustice said.

Ukraine meanwhile reported a record daily increase in coronavirus cases as authorities warned lockdowns may have to be re-imposed if people continued to flout restrictions.

Health authorities recorded 1,109 new coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, bringing Ukraine’s total to more than 41,000.

“People have ceased to comply with restrictions,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said.

The World Health Organisation warned on Thursday that Europe is not yet in the clear, saying 11 nations faced a “very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again.”

In Australia, supermarkets imposed purchase limits on toilet paper across the country Friday following panic buying by people rattled over a surge in coronavirus cases in Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2020