No Surprise: Covid Cases Surge as Nations Ease Lockdowns

The United States and Brazil, whose presidents have been cavalier about the pandemic, continue to lead the world in infections and deaths.

Customers dine outside Dudley’s Monday in New York City. (AP photo/John Minchillo)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) ā€” The number of global coronavirus cases continued to surge Tuesday in many large countries that have been lifting lockdowns, including the United States, as new infections stabilized or dropped in parts of Western Europe.

India has been recording about 15,000 new infections each day, and some states Tuesday were considering fresh lockdown measures in the nation of more than 1.3 billion. The government has lifted a nationwide lockdown in a bid to restart the ailing economy, which has shed millions of jobs.

Hospitals in Pakistan are turning away patients, but with the economy there teetering, the government remains determined to reopen the country.

New cases have also been rising steeply in Mexico, Colombia and Indonesia.

Brazil, with more than 1.1 million cases and 51,000 deaths, has been affected more than anywhere but the United states, which has reported more than 2.3 million cases and more than 122,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Surges across the South and West are raising fears that progress against the virus is slipping away, as states reopen and many Americans resist wearing masks and keeping their distance from others.

In a bizarre phenomenon in a developed country, President Trump has said that people wear face masks as a political statement against him, tacitly encouraging Republicans not to do it.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci will return to Capitol Hill at a fraught moment in the nation’s response. The government’s top infectious disease expert will testify before a House committee.

His testimony comes after Trump said at a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked administration officials to slow down testing, because too many positive cases are turning up. He repeated that argument on Monday.

Many rally goers in Tulsa did not wear masks, and for some that was an act of defiance against what they see as government intrusion. White House officials tried to dismiss Trump’s comment on testing, suggesting it wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said the record number of new cases could not be explained by increased testing alone, noting many countries have seen large increases in hospital admissions and deaths. Also, public health experts are tracking the percentage of tests that come up positive, allowing them to deduce whether the rate of spread is increasing or declining.

“The epidemic is now peaking or moving toward a peak in a number of large countries,” Ryan said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it took more than three months for the world to see 1 million confirmed infections, but just eight days to see the most recent 1 million cases.

“The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself; it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership,” he said during a video conference for the Dubai-based World Government Summit.

Even some countries that have had initial success in stamping out the virus are finding pockets of resurgence.

In Australia, Victoria state on Tuesday reported 17 new cases, resulting in the closing of two primary schools in Melbourne. State Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be significant community transmission among the new cases.

China reported 22 new cases, including 13 in Beijing, a day after a city government spokesperson said containment measures had slowed the momentum of a new outbreak that has infected more than 200 people in the capital.

And South Korea reported 46 new cases, including 30 linked to international arrivals.

The country has been struggling to stem a resurgence of the virus in the Seoul metropolitan area, where hundreds of infections have been linked to entertainment and leisure activities, church gatherings and low-income workers such as door-to-door salespeople and warehouse workers who couldn’t afford to stay home.

South Korea said it was testing 176 workers at the southern port of Busan after a virus outbreak among crew members of a Russian cargo ship that has so far sickened 16.

Saudi Arabia said this year’s pilgrimage, or hajj, to Islam’s holy sites will not be canceled, but only “very limited numbers” of people will be allowed to take part. The hajj traditionally draws around 2 million Muslims from around the world for five days of worship and rituals in Mecca.

Worldwide, more than 9 million people have been confirmed as infected by the virus and more than 472,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true numbers are much higher because of limited testing and asymptomatic cases.


By NICK PERRY

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