LONDON: Britain on Friday announced the first exemptions from its quarantine rules as the coronavirus outbreak slowed in Europe, but excluded the United States as the pandemic accelerates in the United States and across the Americas.
With Europe reopening after an unprecedented lockdown, travellers arriving into England from more than 50 countries will from July 10 no longer be required to undergo 14 days’ self-isolation.
The European Union meanwhile authorised the use of the anti-viral drug remdesivir for Covid-19 — the first treatment approved to deal with the disease — although the United States has bought most of the global stock.
But across the Atlantic the news was increasingly grim with the US posting a record 53,000 new Covid-19 cases, with the number of infections in Latin America overtaking those in Europe for the first time.
Touching almost every country on Earth since it emerged in China late last year, the coronavirus has hit at least 10.8 million people and killed 521,000 globally, shattering previously buoyant economies and bringing public life to a standstill.
In Europe, countries are trying to safely revive a struggling tourism sector as the northern hemisphere summer gets underway.
England said it would allow in travellers from 50 countries, including New Zealand, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, and to stop quarantining, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would announce their own rules.
Many of those countries will now also allow travellers from Britain, which has suffered the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with at least 44,000 dead, although infection rates are falling and it is gradually easing a three-month lockdown.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change, which reversed a two-week quarantine policy imposed in June, would lead to the “reopening of the nation”.
But the United States and Greece, another popular travel destination, will be designated with a red light, which requires 14 days of self-isolation.
While much of the planet pursued a return to some semblance of normality, the United States soared past 50,000 new infections on Thursday for the second time in two days.
Now the epicentre of the pandemic, the United States has recorded nearly 129,000 deaths out of more than 2.7m cases and is expected to record its three millionth infection next week.
So-called “Sun Belt” states in the south and west have been forced to re-shut restaurants, bars and beaches, casting a grim pall over the nation’s upcoming Independence Day celebrations on July 4.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blamed the surge on “social interactions” among young people at parties, beaches, bars, swimming pools and elsewhere, as well as a more “robust” testing programme.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott ordered people in counties with 20 or more cases to wear masks and banned gatherings of more than 10 amid a spike in infections.
California has meanwhile seen a 56 per cent increase in hospitalisations over two weeks.
States that reopened their economies the earliest and fastest after the pandemic struck — and against the advice of federal health authorities — are now experiencing the highest caseloads.
But President Donald Trump highlighted positive jobs data that showed 4.8m people were back to work in June. “Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2020