Global report: China detects highest daily case rise in months

Partial quarantine remains in Beijing; European countries continue to open borders to neighbours

China detected its highest number of daily coronavirus cases in months on Sunday, locking down parts of Beijing in a warning of the difficulties of avoiding a resurgence of the pandemic as Europe prepared to open more borders and loosen restrictions this week.

A wholesale food market in the Chinese capital, where traces of the virus were detected, was closed at the weekend. Nearby housing estates were also placed under quarantine after authorities detected 36 new coronavirus cases in the city and another 19 across the country.

The discovery sparked fears of a possible second wave of a virus that was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December but which appeared to be declining in the country by March as most of the world entered lockdowns. With many countries loosening restrictions, the Chinese flareup illustrated the difficulty in keeping the virus suppressed.

“The meat sellers have had to close. This disease is really scary,” a fruit and vegetable trader told Agence France-Presse at another central Beijing market.

“As long as you wear a face mask, it should be fine,” said a shopper, Song Weiming. “Anyway, I have to buy food, right?”

The total number of coronavirus cases around the world passed 7.8m on Sunday, with more than 430,000 recorded deaths. Infections were still rising in Latin America, Afghanistan warned it was running out of testing capacity, and cases rebounded in Israel a few weeks after it started relaxing its quarantine.

France detected fewer than 30 cases for the fourth day in a row as the virus appeared to continue to ebb across Europe. Member states continued opening borders to each other, with Spain the next to welcome visitors from across the continent starting on Monday.

The EU has recommended that states fully reopen their borders from 15 June but some, such as Poland and Greece, have already done so. The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, travelled to picturesque Santorini island on Saturday to open his country’s tourism season. “Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer by putting safety and health as our number one priority,” he said in English.

After appearing to be spared in the early months of the outbreak, south Asia is struggling to stem new cases, with Pakistan’s planning minister warning on Sunday that the country’s cases could double by the end of the month and peak at 1.2m by late July.

He said the country needed to stop “taking the problem lightly”, although figures including the prime minister, Imran Khan, have said physical distancing and closing businesses are impossible in the developing country and could be more life-threatening than the virus. Pakistan has recorded 140,000 Covid-19 cases and 2,700 deaths.

Iran’s daily death toll exceeded 100 for the first time since 13 April, taking the overall number of deaths to more than 8,800. “It was very painful for us to announce the triple-digit figure,” the health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said. “This is an unpredictable and wild virus and may surprise us at any time.”

Russia, the third-worst affected country with more than 500,000 confirmed cases, was emerging from its first wave “with minimal losses”, the president, Vladimir Putin, said on Sunday. He drew a comparison between his country’s performance and the US.

Russia has recorded nearly 7,000 deaths, a figure that some have questioned, while the US has the worst outbreak in the world with more than 2m cases and 115,000 recorded deaths.

“I can’t imagine someone in the [Russian] government or regions saying we are not going to do what the government or president say,” Putin said, in reference to disputes between the US president, Donald Trump, and US state governors over how to handle the pandemic.

“It seems to me that the problem [in the US] is that group, in this case party interests, are put above those of society’s as a whole, above the interests of the people.”

A sharp increase in cases in Chile plunged the government into crisis and prompted the resignation of the health minister, Jaime Mañalich, on Saturday, shortly after 234 deaths in 24 hours had been confirmed, the highest daily toll to date.

The Afghan health ministry said it was unable to increase testing for coronavirus due to a lack of laboratories and an overload of suspected patients. Ahmad Jawad Osmani, the acting health minister, said on Saturday medical workers would determine new coronavirus patients through their symptoms, rather than through tests, as the number of confirmed infections in the capital Kabul exceeded 10,000.

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Israel has reported a spike in coronavirus cases as schools, businesses, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions and other establishments reopen, leading to 177 educational institutions throughout the country closing again after nearly 500 students and teachers tested positive for the virus.

The World Health Organization said this week the pandemic was accelerating in Africa. Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, was locked down on Saturday after new cases were detected.

And in the US, which has reported the most Covid-19 deaths with more than 115,000, more than a dozen states, including populous Texas and Florida, reported their highest daily case totals in recent days.

Agencies contributed to this report

Contributor

Michael Safi

The GuardianTramp

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