Global virus infections soar as US deaths spike again

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The global coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday, as the worst-hit United States closed bars and beaches ahead of the Independence Day holiday.

Infections hit their highest level worldwide in the past week, WHO data showed, with chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying new cases had topped “160,000 on every single day.”

The grim milestone came as the European Union left Russia, Brazil and the US off its final list of nations safe enough to allow residents to enter its borders.

With new COVID-19 cases in the US surging to more than 40,000 daily, several US states imposed 14-day quarantines on out-of-state travellers in the buildup to Saturday s July 4 festivities.

California suspended indoor dining at restaurants in Los Angeles and several counties while New York scrapped plans to allow restaurants to seat customers inside from next week.

– EU travel ban eased –

The rollbacks came as the EU reopened its borders to visitors from 15 countries.

The bloc hopes relaxing restrictions on countries from Algeria to Uruguay will breathe life into its tourism sector, choked by a ban on non-essential travel since mid-March.

Travellers from China, where the virus first emerged late last year, will be allowed to enter the EU only if Beijing reciprocates.

However, with over 10 million known infections worldwide and more than 500,000 deaths, the pandemic is “not even close to being over”, the WHO warned.

Data provided by the UN health agency for the seven days from June 25-July 1 showed the highest number of new daily cases ever recorded came on June 28, when over 189,500 new cases were registered worldwide.

– Dutch brothels reopen –

According to the United Nations, the coronavirus crisis could cost global tourism and related sectors from $1.2 to $3.3 trillion in lost revenue.

Greece, which has suffered fewer than 200 virus deaths, has seen its economy hit hard by lockdowns and travel restrictions — all but ending its lucrative tourism season before it began.

Romanian Cojan Dragos was “the first tourist” in one Corfu hotel after driving with his wife and daughter.

“We have the whole hotel just for us,” he told AFP.

Separately, Spain and Portugal held a ceremony as they reopened their land border.

The Netherlands also confirmed the reopening Wednesday of another tourist draw — its brothels and red-light districts.

“I m totally booked,” said sex worker Foxxy, adding that she had held a “little party” when she heard restrictions would be lifted.

– Clusters spur new lockdowns –

Russia did not make the EU s list of approved countries so its citizens will be absent from the bloc s tourist hot-spots.

The country, however, enjoyed a public holiday Wednesday as it voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes allowing President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 16 years.

Putin was forced to postpone the vote in April as his government tackled an outbreak that has infected almost 650,000 people — the third-highest in the world.

In other countries, clusters are still causing problems.

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has extended a lockdown on a district hit by an outbreak at a slaughterhouse.

Parts of the Australian city of Melbourne suffered sharp rises in infections, spurring new stay-at-home measures.

The Palestinian Authority also announced a five-day lockdown across the West Bank after a surge in confirmed cases.

And textile factories in the central British city of Leicester were suggested as the reason for a spike in infections that has prompted the reimposition of local restrictions.

– Americas spike –

In the US, spikes in Texas and Florida are driving a surge in national infections.

On Tuesday, the US daily death toll passed 1,000 for the first time since June 10.

The US has recorded almost 128,000 deaths, followed by Brazil with nearly 60,000.

The Pan American Health Organization warned that the death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean could quadruple to more than 400,000 by October without stricter public health measures.

The US government announced this week it had bought 92 percent of all remdesivir production — the first drug to be shown to be relatively effective in treating COVID-19.

Britain and Germany, however, said Wednesday they had sufficient stocks of the drug.

– Corona baby –

While lockdown measures have been a disaster for many, some have welcomed the chance to spend more quality time with hard-working partners.

“Maybe it was because we were healthier and not exhausted anymore, and we had lots of quality time together at home,” said Indonesian Novarina, pregnant with her first child after two years of trying.

“My husband and I joke that this is a corona baby.”

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