Global virus infections top 10 million

By: AFP      Published: 05:09 PM, 28 Jun, 2020
Global virus infections top 10 million

Global infections from the novel coronavirus have surpassed 10 million as the rate of new cases surges, according to an AFP tally on Sunday.

One million new cases were recorded in only six days, according to the AFP count, just as countries start to unwind punishing lockdowns that have devastated their economies and thrown millions out of work.

The worldwide death toll from the disease that first emerged in China about six months ago is also nearing 500,000 as fears grow of a full-blown second wave.

The United States, the hardest-hit country, has surpassed 2.5 million cases alone, as efforts to reopen the world's economic powerhouse were set back by a jump in new infections in states such as Florida.

Infections are also up in some other parts of the world that have reopened, with Europe now registering over 2.6 million, according to the AFP tally based on official sources.

- 'Severe and complicated' -

China on Sunday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people in a province surrounding Beijing to contain a fresh coronavirus cluster.

Beijing city official Xu Hejian told reporters that the situation was "severe and complicated," warning that the city needed to continue tracing the spread of the virus.

The tension between reopening battered economies -- efforts pushed in the US by President Donald Trump -- and public health is a source of debate in nearly every country.

On Saturday alone the US recorded more than 43,000 new cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. US deaths now exceed 125,000, approximately one-quarter the world total of almost 499,000.

Across the Atlantic, the EU on Saturday pushed back a decision on a list of "safe countries" from which travellers can visit Europe -- a list which could exclude the US.

Meanwhile stars including Coldplay, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson lent support to a European Commission-led drive Saturday that raised 6.15 billion euros ($6.9 billion) to support vaccine research and help make it available to poorer countries.

In India, densely populated cities have been particularly hard hit. The country set a daily record Saturday with 18,500 new cases and 385 deaths. Total infections are at 509,000, with more than 15,600 deaths.

In the Middle East, the governor of Bethlehem announced that the Palestinian city would temporarily close due to rising infections.

Iran, which has struggled to curb its outbreak even as it gradually lifted restrictions from April, has launched a mask-wearing campaign.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had warned Saturday that Iran's economic problems would worsen if the coronavirus spreads unchecked.

The disease also continues to rampage through Latin America, with Peru topping 9,000 deaths Saturday.

Brazil -- the second hardest-hit country after the US -- recorded 990 deaths on Saturday, the highest toll in the world that day, while Mexico recorded the second highest at 719.

- 'Explosion' in Florida -

In the US state of Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has conceded there has been an "explosion" in new cases.

On Saturday the "Sunshine State" notched 9,585 cases in 24 hours, a new daily record.

The average age of people infected has dropped sharply -- to 33 from 65 two months ago. Young people frustrated by months of confinement have poured back to the state's beaches, boardwalks and bars, often without masks and seemingly unconcerned about social distancing.

Miami announced beaches will close over the July 4 holiday weekend and bars are also shutting their doors.

With Trump struggling to lift his re-election bid off the ground ahead of November, the campaign confirmed that events featuring Vice President Mike Pence in Arizona and Florida next week have been postponed "out of an abundance of caution."

Trump had faced a backlash after insisting on a rally in Oklahoma a week ago despite virus concerns.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered some areas to reinstate stay-at-home orders, while San Francisco announced a "pause" in its reopening.

Texas -- among the first US states to reopen -- also shut down its bars.

Governor Greg Abbott, another Republican who resisted lockdowns, said Friday that if he could "go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars."

Global events have had to be curtailed because of the virus.

China puts half a million people in lockdown

China imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people in a province surrounding the capital to contain a fresh coronavirus cluster on Sunday, as authorities warned the outbreak was still "severe and complicated."

After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in neighbouring Hebei province in recent weeks.

Health officials said Sunday that Anxin county -- about 150 kilometres from Beijing -- will be "fully enclosed and controlled", the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year.

Only one person from each family will be allowed to go out once a day to purchase necessities such as food and medicine, the county's epidemic prevention task force said in a statement.

The move comes after another 14 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, taking the total to 311 since mid-June and spurring the testing of millions of residents.

The outbreak was first detected in Beijing's sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market, which supplies much of the city's fresh produce, sparking concerns over the safety of the food supply chain.

Nearly a third of the cases so far have been linked to one beef and mutton section in the market, where workers are being made to quarantine for a month, city officials said Sunday.

Businesses in Anxin county had supplied freshwater fish to the Xinfadi market, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Some 12 cases of the novel coronavirus were found in the county -- including 11 linked to Xinfadi, the state-run Global Times reported.

The new cases in Beijing have prompted fears of a resurgence of the virus in China.

The capital has mass-tested wholesale market workers, restaurant workers, residents of medium and high-risk neighbourhoods and delivery couriers over the past two weeks. 

At a press conference on Sunday, officials said 8.3 million samples have been collected so far, of which 7.7 million have already been tested.

Testing has now expanded to include all employees of the city's beauty parlours and hair salons, the Global Times said.

Beijing city official Xu Hejian told reporters Sunday that "the epidemic situation in the capital is severe and complicated," warning that the city needed to continue tracing the spread of the virus.

City officials have urged people not to leave Beijing, closed schools again and locked down dozens of residential compounds to stamp out the virus.

But Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiology expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters last week the new outbreak had been "brought under control", and officials lifted a weeks-long lockdown imposed on seven Beijing communities on Friday.

Sri Lanka lifts virus lockdown

Sri Lanka's nationwide lockdown was lifted Sunday after a selective curfew a month ago was reimposed during a surge in coronavirus infections, the country's president said.

The island nation imposed the lockdown on March 20 and lifted it gradually over the past two months, although a nighttime curfew remained in place.

It reintroduced tighter restrictions in late May and early June to curb large gatherings for the funeral of a popular government minister and for a religious festival.

"The curfew has completely been lifted effective from today," President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's office said in a statement.

Health officials said new infections reported since April 30 were from Sri Lankans stranded in the Middle East who were brought home on special flights and quarantined.

A cluster in a navy camp was controlled with the facility still in lockdown, they said.

"There has been no community spread of the virus and the infections at the Welisara navy camp are now contained," a health official told AFP.

Air and sea borders remained closed, with international flights suspended.

Authorities plan to reopen Sri Lanka's borders on August 1, but the date could be reviewed due to the imported cases, the official added.