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COVID outbreak hits Germany as China, Korea report new cases

The cases pushed the reproduction rate of the coronavirus in Germany to 1.79, the Robert Koch Institute for public health said on Saturday, far above the level needed to contain it over the longer term.

The number, a sharp increase from 1.06 on Friday, is a setback for the European Union’s most populous country, which has fared better in the pandemic than many European peers due mainly to early testing and social distancing measures.

The institute attributed the rise to a number of local outbreaks, which have been seen in locations such as meatpacking plants, logistics centres, and shelters for refugees. Outbreaks have also been linked to church services and family parties.

The premier of the western North Rhine-Westphalia region warned on Friday it faces the threat of a renewed lockdown amid a spiralling outbreak at a major slaughterhouse.

The head of the World Health Organisation warned Friday the virus’s global spread was accelerating after a daily high of 150,000 new cases was reported the previous day.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 454,000 people and infected more than 8.5 million, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The true number is thought to be much higher because many cases go untested.

Some governments including Spain, Britain and France are relaxing controls and reviving business activity. But case numbers are rising in South Africa, Brazil, the United States and some other countries.

A Chinese epidemic control worker wears a protective suit and mask while performing a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 on a woman at a testing center in Beijing.

A Chinese epidemic control worker wears a protective suit and mask while performing a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 on a woman at a testing center in Beijing.Credit:Getty Images

Brazil’s Health Ministry said on Saturday the total number of cases had risen by more than 50,000 from the previous day. President Jair Bolsonaro is downplaying the risks despite nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months.

Mexico has reported 4717 new infections and 387 additional deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total number in the country to 175,202 cases and 20,781 deaths.

The government said on Saturday the real number of infected people was likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases as the country has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

It took 75 days for Mexico to surpass 10,000 deaths, which stood at 10,167 on June 1 but it took only three weeks for the deaths to exceed 20,000.

South Africa reported a one-day high of 4966 new cases on Saturday and 46 deaths. Despite the increase, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced a further loosening of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service will be allowed to reopen.

In the United States, the state of Arizona reported 3109 new infections, just short of Friday’s record, and 26 deaths. The state of Nevada also reported a new high of 445 cases.

The outbreak has killed about 120,000 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.

China, where the outbreak began in December, and South Korea, the second country to report a spike in infections, had eased controls on travel and business as new cases fell. They have reimposed monitoring and some other restrictions following their recent jump in infections.

The Beijing health commission gave no details of where the latest cases might have originated. The Chinese capital’s biggest wholesale food market was closed June 13 after dozens of people who worked there tested positive.

The agency in charge of the Ming Tombs, a tourist site north-west of Beijing, said indoor areas will be closed as a safety precaution. Visitors are allowed in outdoor areas but are required to wear masks and be checked for fever.

In South Korea, nearly 200 infections have been traced to employees at a door- to-door sales company in Seoul, which mostly hired people over 60, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 70 infections have been linked to a table tennis club in Seoul whose members also passed the virus at a church.

South Korean officials are reluctant to enforce stronger social-distancing to avoid hurting the fragile economy.

In Middle East, the Palestinian Authority reimposed restrictions in the West Bank after 86 people tested positive on Saturday. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced access to the city of Hebron was suspended and residents put under a five-day curfew. Another city, Nablus, is to be isolated for two days.

AP, Reuters

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