Masks, travel curbs, testing ramped up as Covid cases surge
Bangkok: Coronavirus case numbers are rising to dire new levels in several US states and around the world, potentially wiping out two months of progress in fighting the pandemic and prompting governments and businesses to impose new restrictions.
Indonesia exceeded the 50,000 mark for confirmed infections on Thursday as the government allowed businesses to reopen amid increasing economic pressures. In Melbourne, Australia, health workers planned to go door-to-door to test more than 100,000 residents in a Coronavirus hot spot that threatens to undo the nation's success in battling the virus.
India reported a record 16,922 cases on Thursday, taking the national total to 473,105, with nearly 15,000 deaths.
The 34,700 COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday returned the U.S. to near its late April peak of 36,400 new cases in one day, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Several states have set single-day case records this week, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some also broke hospitalisation records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina. The virus has been blamed for over 120,000 U.S. deaths the highest toll in the world and more than 2.3 million confirmed infections nationwide. On Wednesday, the widely cited University of Washington computer model of the outbreak projected nearly 180,000 US deaths by October 1.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced that their states, which were devastated by early outbreaks that appear to be under control, will now require travelers from certain states to quarantine for 24 days upon arrival.
The quarantine applies to people coming from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, or with a 10 per cent or higher positive rate over seven days.
European nations appeared on track to reopen their shared borders by July 1, and their EU representatives debated criteria for lifting restrictions on visitors from outside Europe. In Greece, aviation officials were visiting regional airports that are due to open to direct international flights on July 1.
Americans are unlikely to be allowed into EU nations for at least the next few weeks, given how the pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump's ban on Europeans entering the United States.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the continent's cases have surged to more than 336,000, up by 10,000 from a day earlier.
Alarmed, some states are moving to ensure more consistent use of face masks and other anti-virus measures.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, ordered people to wear masks in public as the daily count of hospitalisations and new cases hovered near records. In Florida, several counties and cities recently enacted mask requirements.
Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said he worries that states will squander what time they have to head off a much larger crisis.
In Paris, the city's iconic Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors for the first time Thursday after its longest-ever closure in peace time: 104 days. But enjoying views from the top requires some effort: the lift that normally carries visitors up the 324-meter (1,063-feet) tall wrought-iron structure remains closed, so for now people have to take the stairs.
Skyscraper-studded Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, ended a monthslong nightly curfew, saying in a tweet that there would be free move all day & night as long as people wore masks and maintained social distancing.
In China, where the virus first appeared late last year, an outbreak in Beijing appeared to have been brought under control. China reported 19 newly confirmed cases nationwide amid mass testing in the capital.
South Korea was still struggling to quell an outbreak there, reporting 28 new cases on Thursday, mostly associated with nightlife, churches, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sales. But the numbers have not reached the hundreds of new cases every day in late February and early March.
Worldwide, over 9.4 million people have been confirmed infected, and nearly 500,000 have died, by Johns Hopkins' count.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said on Thursday that Europe has seen a surge of COVID-19 cases since countries began easing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the potentially fatal virus.
"Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months," the WHO's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters. He said more than two dozen countries in Europe had seen resurgences of the deadly virus.
"Thirty countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe," he warned.