Global report: French and Spanish Covid-19 cases at highest level in weeks

Iceland reinstates public gathering restrictions; US Republican Herman Cain dies; Brazil’s first lady tests positive

France’s seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has risen above the 1,000 threshold for the first time since the first half of May, when it eased its lockdown, as Spain said its daily rise in cases was the highest since its lockdown was lifted in June.

French health authorities reported 1,377 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, one day after identifying 21 new clusters, bringing the total to 147.

Spain reported 1,229 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, topping 1,000 for the second day in a row. It also marked the biggest rise since its lockdown was eased on 21 June.

Amid resurgences of the virus across Europe and Asia, the French health minister, Olivier Véran, insisted the country was not in the grip of a second wave but urged people to maintain distancing and protection measures.

Several French cities announced new face mask requirements and other measures on Thursday to contain the virus. Authorities in Saint-Malo in Brittany, a popular tourist destination, said masks were mandatory inside its walled old city and on the ramparts for everyone aged 11 and above.

Warning that shutting the country again would be a “catastrophic” economic and social event, the French prime minister, Jean Castex, said at the weekend another full lockdown must be “avoided above all”. The approach reflects that of other countries, including Spain and the UK, which have tried to manage resurgences of cases with localised restrictions and lockdowns. Iceland reinstated restrictions on public gatherings on Thursday after finding at least two new infection clusters, the government said.

Echoing statements by politicians from various European countries in recent days, the World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said rising case numbers in some countries were driven partly by young people letting down their guard. “We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: young people are not invincible,” Tedros said.

After a brief loosening of travel restrictions, countries have been tightening up rules for travellers.

Norway announced it would reimpose a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Belgium, from Saturday, after a rise in cases. Last week it reimposed restrictions on travel from Spain.

Poland reported its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 615 new infections and a further 15 deaths. Cases in the Czech Republic surpassed 16,000 as a recent sharp rise in infections continued.

Asia is also experiencing sharp rises in cases. Australia, India and Hong Kong have all reported record daily cases in recent days.

Asian governments had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the virus emerged in central China late last year, but flareups this month have shown the danger of complacency.

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said: “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus.” Australia reported a record 13 deaths in one day on Thursday, and more than 700 new infections, mostly in the second-most populous state of Victoria, where all residents were ordered to wear face-coverings outside.

In Hong Kong, where a record 149 new cases were recorded on Thursday, authorities said the global financial hub was facing a critical period as it tries to contain its outbreak.

In Japan, Tokyo’s governor called for restaurants, bars and karaoke parlours to shut earlier to help contain the coronavirus as the Japanese capital reported a record number of new infections.

“The current situation is more serious than before,” said Yuriko Koike, citing experts. “There were several clusters in Tokyo ... We have no time to waste,” she said, adding the number of infections through group dining was increasing and that Tokyo would have to declare a state of emergency if the situation worsens.

In the US, the former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died of coronavirus, his team announced on his website on Thursday. He tested positive for Covid-19 in early July and was admitted to hospital not long afterwards, where he had been receiving oxygen.

Florida reported a record increase in new Covid-19 deaths for a third day in a row, with 252 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department. Arizona also reported a record increase with 172 fatalities, bringing that state’s death toll to 3,626. Both states had been hotspots with large outbreaks but new cases have recently slowed in both.

In Brazil, the first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, and the science and technology minister, Marcos Pontes, tested positive just over three weeks after the president, Jair Bolsonaro, announced he had the virus.

Jair Bolsonaro has faced domestic and international condemnation for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 90,000 Brazilians. On Wednesday, Brazil suffered its highest daily death toll, with a 1,554 fatalities registered in a single day, and a record 70,869 new cases. Despite that, much of the country is reopening.

In Libya, the internationally recognised government in Tripoli said it would impose a full lockdown in areas of the country it controls, after a sharp rise in cases.

Additional reporting by Kim Willsher in Paris and Tom Phillips in Mexico City


Peter Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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