Coronavirus: Fears US cases spiralling out of control
World round-up: WHO says lack of global solidarity bigger threat than virus
More than 9.1 million cases of coronavirus have been recorded worldwide with more than 472,680 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. *
Coronavirus cases are soaring in several major countries at the same time, with “worrying increases” in Latin America, especially Brazil, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday. The world recorded more than 183,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the most in a single day since the outbreak started in December, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies chief, said the record number of new cases could not be explained by increased testing alone. He noted that many countries have seen large increases in hospital admissions and deaths. Dr Ryan said: “The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries.” Mr Ghebreyesus said it took more than three months for the world to see one million confirmed infections, but just eight days to see the most recent one million cases. “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself; it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership,” he said during a video conference for the Dubai-based World Government Summit.
The following is a summary of the latest developments on the virus around the world:
Alarming surges in coronavirus cases across the US south and west have raised fears the outbreak is spiralling out of control. Concerns are deepening that hard-won progress against the disease is slipping away because of resistance among many Americans to wearing masks and keeping their distance from others. It comes as president Donald Trump said on Monday the US had done “too good a job” on Covid-19 testing, even as his staff insisted the president was joking when he said on the weekend he had instructed aides to “slow the testing down, please”. Confirming predictions the easing of state lockdowns in the past six weeks would lead to a comeback by the virus, cases have surpassed 100,000 in Florida, hospital admissions are rising dramatically in Houston and Georgia, and a startling one in five of those tested in Arizona are proving to be infected.
Over the weekend, the virus seemed to be everywhere at once: Several campaign staff members who helped set up Mr Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tested positive, as did 23 Clemson University football players in South Carolina. Meatpacking plants were also hit with outbreaks.
“It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike,” said Dr Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, noting the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions had tripled since May 25th, to more than 1,400 in the Houston metropolitan area. He warned hospitals could be overwhelmed in three weeks, and he pleaded with people to cover their faces and practice social distancing.
Texas is among a number of states — including Arizona, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina — whose governors have resisted statewide mask requirements, leaving the matter to local authorities. The number of new coronavirus cases across the country per day has reached more than 26,000, up from about 21,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 120,000 deaths in the US have been blamed on the virus, the highest toll in the world. In Georgia, the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 rose to 1,000, erasing a month’s worth of progress.
Brazil reached more than a million confirmed coronavirus cases and 50,000 deaths over the weekend as throngs of people swarmed Rio de Janeiro beaches, but the WHO said on Monday that even more cases were likely going uncounted. Brazil’s health ministry said on Monday that an additional 21,432 confirmed cases of the virus and 654 new deaths had been registered in the previous 24 hours. A day earlier, swimmers and sunbathers packed Rio’s famous beaches, with many neither wearing masks nor respecting the WHO’s guidance to maintain 1 meter of distance between people. As the toll climbs in Rio, the state with the second highest number of novel coronavirus cases, the local health secretary said on Monday he would resign after about month in office. “I have only one thing to say: I tried,” state health secretary Fernando Ferry said in a video on Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo, announcing his departure. The turmoil among health officials in Rio mirrors that of the federal government, where two health ministers resigned in the span of a month. An active-duty military general with no medical background is now interim health minister. The WHO is looking into a surge of more than 54,000 new coronavirus cases in Brazil in 24 hours, that was reported by the health ministry on Friday and is by far the most reported in the country in a single day, according to top WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan.
The premier of the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia said on Tuesday he wasputting the Guetersloh area back into lockdown until June 30th after a coronavirus outbreak at a meatpacking plant there. State premier Armin Laschet, who had led calls for Germany to ease lockdown measures, said bars, museums, galleries, cinemas, sports halls, gyms and swimming pools in Guetersloh would be closed, and picnics and barbeques prohibited. About 360,000 people live in Guetersloh. It is the first area in Germany to go back into lockdown after the authorities began gradually lifting restrictive measures at the end of April. Germany’s coronavirus infection rate remained well above the government’s target of one, reflecting a heightened risk of the disease flaring up again more widely in the country. The country’s reproduction rate is currently estimated at 2.76, probably mainly due to local outbreaks, the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health Lothar Wieler said on Tuesday. A reproduction rate, or ‘R’, of 2.76 means that 100 people who contracted the virus infect, on average, 276 others. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 503 to 190,862, data from the RKI showed on Tuesday. That compares with almost 7,000 cases at the peak of the pandemic in late March. The reported death toll rose by 10 to 8,895, the tally showed. Mr Wieler said on Tuesday the country is at risk of experiencing a second coronavirus wave but added he was optimistic it can be prevented.
Indoor gyms, spas and casinos are among the list of businesses that will remain closed by law after the British prime minister announced further easing of lockdown measures. On Tuesday, Boris Johnson announced that a large number of businesses will be allowed to reopen from July 4th, including pubs, hotels, libraries and outdoor leisure facilities.
Detailed sector-by-sector guidance will be published for businesses on how to reopen in a Covid-secure manner. Some scientists have expressed concern the government is moving too quickly, and that its track-and-trace system to contain any fresh outbreaks is not fully up and running. Lucy Yardley, professor of health psychology at the University of Bristol and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Newsnight there was a “danger” that some people thought lockdown had ended. Prof Yardley said “you could argue that we were never so much listening to the government as doing what we thought was right at the right time” and added it “would be much harder” to impose lockdown for a second time.
China reported 22 new coronavirus cases for June 22nd, 13 of which were in the capital Beijing, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday. This compared with 18 confirmed cases a day earlier, 9 of which were in Beijing. Authorities are restricting movement of people in the capital and stepping up other measures to prevent the virus from spreading following a series of local infections. Beijing’s mass testing for the new coronavirus will soon enter a “fast track” as the city’s testing capacity expands, a senior municipal health official said on Tuesday. Beijing can now administer more than 300,000 nucleic acid tests per day compared with 40,000 in March, Zhang Hua, deputy director at the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, told reporters. Beijing had taken samples from 2.95 million people between June 12th and June 22nd, Mr Zhang said.
Indonesia reported 1,051 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, taking its total number of cases to 47,896.Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there were 35 more deaths reported, with total fatalities now at 2,535.
Indonesia’s toll of deaths related to Covid-19 is the highest in East Asia outside of China.
Thailand on Tuesday reported five new coronavirus cases, all imported, marking 29 days without local transmission, a senior official said.The five new cases were Thai nationals returning from Egypt and Qatar, who were in quarantine, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government’s Covid-19 Administration Centre.Thailand has recorded 58 deaths related to Covid-19, with 3,156 infections. Up to now, 3,023 patients have recovered.
Authorities in South Korea have said the country is experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus in and around Seoul, and warned that stronger physical-distancing measures will be reimposed if the daily increase in infections does not come down. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Monday said it had become clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the densely populated Seoul area. As of midnight on Sunday, South Korea had reported 17 new coronavirus cases - the first time in nearly a month that daily new cases had dropped below 20. It was a drop from the 48 and 67 cases reported in the previous two days. South Korea has reported a total of 12,438 cases, with 280 deaths. At the end of February, South Korea reported a peak of more than 900 cases in a day, in the first large outbreak of the coronavirus outside of China. An intensive tracking and testing campaign reduced the numbers to single digits by late April.
Portugal and Spain
Portugal reimposed restrictions in Lisbon on gatherings of more than 10 people and in Spain, three areas in the northeastern region of Aragon were ordered back into the penultimate phase of the lockdown de-escalation process on Monday after 33 new coronavirus cases were reported on Sunday. “We tackled the outbreak very early and managed to identify cases because we were looking for them,” said the region’s director general of public health, Francisco Javier Falo. Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, said the outbreak - concentrated in the Aragonese areas of La Litera, Cinca Medio and Bajo Cinca - was “being brought under control” on Monday morning. Mr Illa said that 36 Covid-19 outbreaks had been detected in Spain in recent days, adding that all were under control. Spain emerged from its three-month state of emergency on Sunday, meaning that people can once again travel between different regions. The country also opened its borders to visitors from the EU and the Schengen area on Sunday.
The government of South Australia said three contact-tracing experts were being dispatched to Melbourne in neighbouring Victoria, and would spend three weeks helping local health workers there following a new outbreak. “Victoria has had a significant surge and there have been more than 116 cases identified in the last seven days and 75 per cent of those have been the result of community transmission,” said the health minister, Stephen Wade.
On Monday, New Zealand announced stricter measures to strengthen its border as an increase in flight numbers begins to bring more people home. “While the world enters this dangerous new phase, we remain in a phase of border containment,” said the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. The government renewed its health order, mandating 14 days of quarantine, including a new measure to ensure that people arriving in New Zealand must have a negative Covid-19 test before leaving quarantine, and may be required to take multiple tests.–PA, Guardian, Reuters, Bloomberg
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Covid-19 cases was 9.9m.