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New outbreaks raise alarm as India cases hit 1 million, Brazil 2 million

“The acceleration in cases remains the main challenge for India in the coming days,” said Dr Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, adding that a vast majority of cases were still being missed.

Restaurant workers nap on tables at a restaurant in a shopping centre in Beijing.

Restaurant workers nap on tables at a restaurant in a shopping centre in Beijing.Credit:AP

China on Friday reported nine imported cases and one instance of local transmission, in Xinjiang, where health officials were monitoring three other people and flights to and from the regional capital, Urumqi, reportedly were being restricted.

The Muslim-majority region is so far from Beijing that residents operate by their own, unofficial time zone and had until now been little affected by outbreaks elsewhere that appear to have been brought under control.

Efforts were underway to trace contacts of the factory worker who fell ill, the Urumqi Health Commission said on its WeChat social media site.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, large-scale restrictions in its capital were set to continue as new COVID-19 cases rise, with cinemas and other indoor entertainment spaces to remain closed.

“It will be very risky if we loosen the first phase of large-scale social restrictions to the second phase. So we decided to extend the social restrictions,” said Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro outside his official residence after testing positive for coronavirus for the second time.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro outside his official residence after testing positive for coronavirus for the second time.Credit:Getty Images

As of Thursday, 15,636 cases with 713 deaths had been recorded in Jakarta. The city imposed sweeping social restrictions on April 10 but relaxed some of them two months later. Indonesia as a whole has reported nearly 82,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3800 deaths.

In Brazil, the number of confirmed cases passed the 2 million mark as anger grows over President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the outbreak.

Just 27 days have passed since the country with the world’s second-largest outbreak reached 1 million cases. In recent weeks, there have been nearly 40,000 confirmed new cases per day, according to government figures. Confirmed cases totalled 2,012,151 on Friday (AEST) while deaths numbered 76,688.

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By contrast, 43 days passed between 1 million and 2 million confirmed cases in the United States, where the spread of COVID-19 eased briefly in May before accelerating again in June, according to a Reuters tally.

Polls show Bolsonaro’s popularity has been sinking during the pandemic. The share of Brazilians that see his government as bad or terrible has risen to 44 per cent, according to a late June survey by pollster Datafolha. That was up from 38 per cent in April and 36 per cent in December. The President tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time this week.

“The government didn’t budge despite the health crisis. They thought more about money than about people,” said Rafael Reis of Rio de Janeiro, who lost his 71-year-old mother to the illness. “They mocked the disease. They didn’t believe in it … They wanted everyone back in the streets.”

In some big cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where the outbreak first emerged in Brazil, new daily cases have stabilised and even begun to decline slowly. But that has been offset by worsening outbreaks in other states. The fastest growing outbreaks are Rio Grande do Sul and Parana in southern Brazil, which had kept a lid on their outbreaks early on.

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In South Korea, officials said they might be making headway in capping outbreaks that have expanded from the capital, Seoul.

South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention still reported 60 newly confirmed infections, including 39 linked to people arriving from abroad.

But a senior Health Ministry official, Yoon Tae-ho, told reporters that the imported cases were less of a concern than local ones because they would be caught in a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all people arriving from abroad. All are to be tested within 3 days.

More than 13.7 million infections have been confirmed worldwide and nearly 590,000 people have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are likely higher for various reasons, including limited testing.

Two-week quarantines are becoming the norm, and many governments have been rolling back reopenings and tightening restrictions to try to stave off further waves of new cases.

Cases are surging in the US too with record numbers of confirmed infections and deaths in the south and west. The US death toll reached 137,420 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, while there are 3.5 million known virus cases in the country. There were at least 77,000 new cases reported on Thursday.

Hospitals are stretched to the brink in many areas amid fears the pandemic’s resurgence is only getting started. The rebound after shutdowns imposed in April were lifted has led to requirements for masks or other facial coverings in at least half of the 50 states.

Texas reported 10,000 new cases for the third straight day and 129 additional deaths.

Florida reached another ominous record, with 156 virus deaths, and a staggering 13,965 new cases.

Reminiscent of New York City at the height of the pandemic there earlier this year, in Arizona the Phoenix medical examiner’s office is stocking up on storage coolers for an influx of bodies as funeral homes hit maximum capacity, with regular morgue storage nearly two-thirds full as of Thursday.

In Texas, San Antonio health officials have turned to refrigerated trailers to store the dead, and soldiers were preparing to take over a COVID-19 wing of a Houston hospital.

In hospitals in Hildago County, about 354 kilometres south of San Antonio on the Mexican border, it’s not uncommon for the body of a COVID-19 patient to lay on a stretcher for 10 hours before it can be removed in the overcrowded intensive care units, said Dr Ivan Melendez, the county public health authority.

“Before someone gets a bed in the COVID ICU unit, someone has to die there,” Melendez said.

AP, Reuters

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