New virus cases in China, N. Zealand sound pandemic alarm
More than two dozen new coronavirus cases in China and the first New Zealand infections for almost a month on Tuesday underscored the immense challenges in containing the deadly pandemic, even as some EU countries reopened their borders to other Europeans.
The virus has now infected more than eight million people worldwide since it first appeared in China at the end of last year - with more than 435,000 deaths - and the number of victims in Latin America and South Asia is still increasing.
However, the number of cases has declined across Europe and governments are striving to ease barriers that saved lives but destroyed the economy - despite experts warning that restrictions will be required until a vaccine or an effective one is available Treatment is being developed.
The most recent memory of the threat came from China on Tuesday, which had largely controlled its outbreak when 27 new infections were reported in Beijing, in which a new cluster associated with a food wholesale market triggered mass tests and closures in the neighborhood .
"The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely serious," warned Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian when the number of confirmed infections rose to 106.
And New Zealand reported its first cases in almost a month - two newcomers from the UK - and caused the authorities to follow their movements.
The South Pacific nation said last week that it had stopped transmitting the virus to the community.
While these cases have raised concerns about the possibility of a full resurgence in countries that have suppressed their outbreaks, the disease is gaining momentum in other regions with massive populations.
Known infections in India have exceeded 330,000, and authorities already affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are preparing for the monsoon season, which leads to outbreaks such as dengue and malaria every year.
Vidya Thakur, medical superintendent at Rajawadi Hospital in Mumbai, has been used to dealing with "severe stress" as a doctor in India's chronically underfunded public health system for more than three decades.
But now she says: "COVID-19 has made us helpless ... and the monsoon will make things even more difficult."
- Oscars postponed -
In Latin America, countries are struggling to contain the disease while trying to alleviate the economic blow caused by widespread barriers and social distance measures.
Peru reported that its economy shrank more than 40 percent in April compared to the previous year, while Chile extended its state of emergency by three months as it struggles with controversy over how COVID-19 deaths are counted.
In the United States, the most affected nation in the world, there have been spurts in some states.
But the government of President Donald Trump insists that there will be no new economic shutdown, even if a second wave hits.
However, a return to normal seems to be still a long way off since the Oscars have been postponed for two months, the youngest victim of an already interrupted sports and entertainment calendar.
- reopen borders in Europe -
After a gradual decline in new cases, European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and Greece lifted the border restrictions to boost tourism and travel in the summer months.
In Spain, an aircraft load of German tourists flew to the Balearic Islands in an experimental pilot project.
In Brussels, Joy Kamel, a student who was traveling to France with her father, was waiting for a flight to Marseille.
"It's been five months since I saw him," she said to AFP. "I'm in the middle of exams, but since I'm taking them online, I might as well use them."
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