Beijing outbreak raises virus fears for rest of the world
BEIJING (AP) - China has raised its emergency warning to the second highest and canceled more than 60% of flights to Beijing on Wednesday due to a new outbreak of coronavirus in the capital. It was a sharp retreat for the nation that declared victory over COVID-19 in March and a message to the rest of the world about how persistent the virus really is.
Infections emerged in India, Iran, and the United States, including Florida, Texas, and Arizona, when the authorities struggled to rebalance the economy without accelerating the pandemic.
The European nations that underwent a major reopening this week watched with concern as America struggled to stem the first wave of the pandemic, and Asian nations such as China and South Korea reported new outbreaks.
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Chinese officials described the situation in Beijing as "extremely serious."
"This has really sounded an alarm bell for us," Party Secretary Cai Qi said at a meeting of the Beijing Communist Party Standing Committee.
After an advance that began on June 14, the city expects to have tested 700,000 people by the end of the day, said Beijing party official Zhang Qiang. About half of them were city food workers, residents and close contacts.
The party's Global Times said 1,255 flights to and from the capital's two major airports had been scrapped by Wednesday morning, about two-thirds of the planned.
Since the virus appeared in China at the end of last year and has spread worldwide, there have been more than 8.1 million confirmed cases and at least 443,000 deaths, according to a report by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the real toll is much higher due to the many who died without being tested and other factors.
The United States has the most infections and deaths worldwide. The number of victims was 117,000 on Wednesday, exceeding the number of Americans who died in the First World War.
Arizona reported a daily high of nearly 2,400 new infections with a total of more than 39,000, while Governor Greg Abbott in Texas insisted that the state health system cope with the rapidly increasing number of new cases and hospitalizations.
Tuesday was the eighth time in nine days that Texas reached a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations at 2,518. State health authorities reported 2,622 new cases.
"There is cause for concern, but there is currently no reason to be alarmed," said Abbott.
Texas began aggressively reopening its economy on May 1. Abbott noted that Texans may wear careless masks or practice social distancing, and urged people to stay at home as much as possible.
Canada and the United States extended an agreement until July 21 to keep their unnecessary travel border closed. Many Canadians fear cases from the United States.
While the United States is struggling with the first wave of the virus, other countries that have been widely believed to be under control have faced troubling developments.
In South Korea, the authorities reported 43 new cases due to increased public activities. According to authorities, 25 of them came from the Seoul area, where hundreds of infections have been linked to nightclubs, church gatherings, e-commerce workers, and door-to-door sellers. Twelve of the new cases came from international arrivals.
Not long after New Zealand declared itself virus-free, the virus reappeared. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hired a leading military leader to monitor border quarantines after health officials described them as "unacceptable failure."
Two New Zealand citizens who had returned from London to see a dying relative were allowed to leave the quarantine before being tested. After the women tested positive, New Zealand started tracking their potential contacts to make sure the virus was included.
Their cases raised the feeling that international air travel could trigger a new surge in the virus, just as countries are trying to boost the destroyed tourism industry.
China also restricted other trips to the capital to find hotspots. Beijing had largely eliminated local transmissions to the last few days, with 137 new cases since last week.
On Wednesday, the city of 20 million people raised its threat level from 3 to 2, canceled classes, postponed reopening and increased demands for social distance. China eased many of the controls after the Communist Party declared victory over the virus in March.
India, with the fourth highest number of cases after the United States, Brazil and Russia, added more than 2,000 deaths to its balance sheet after the states of Delhi and Maharashtra included 1,672 previously unreported deaths. The death toll of 11,903 is now the eighth highest in the world. India has reported 10,000 new infections daily and more than 300 deaths in the past two weeks.
Iran's latest outbreak comes after a major Muslim holiday last month and when travel and blocking restrictions were relaxed. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said he saw the scale of the challenge when he made a domestic flight.
"Many people have become careless and frustrated to wear masks," he said. "They did not observe any (social) distance in the seats of the flight and the ventilation system of the commercial aircraft did not work."
In Europe, where more than 184,000 virus deaths were recorded, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that the country would hold a ceremony on July 16 to honor its more than 27,000 deaths.
German officials said 400 people in a large western meat packaging facility tested positive for COVID-19. The industry has seen several outbreaks in the past few weeks, prompting the government to issue stricter security regulations.
The Danish Minister of Health asked anyone who joined a major protest against racial injustice on June 7 to test whether or not you have symptoms after it was found that a person in the crowd was infected.
“As long as we have the virus in Europe and Denmark, it will flare up. We are dealing with a very, very contagious disease, ”said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke.
Rising reports from Berlin and McGuirk from Canberra, Australia. Associated press reporters around the world have contributed to this.
Follow AP pandemic reporting at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
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