As public life resumes, spikes in cases highlight a continuing threat.
With some areas hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic over the past six months having significantly curbed its spread through strict measures, more people around the globe are venturing back into public life, whether for social interactions, work or the protests that erupted after the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
But surges of new cases on multiple continents in recent days underscore the virus’s continuing threat.
China, the site of the first major outbreak, appeared to have largely brought the virus under control, but reported on Sunday 57 new confirmed infections, its highest single-day tally in two months.
In the United States, several states are experiencing spikes in cases, particularly in the Sun Belt and the West. Hospitals in Arizona have been urged to activate emergency plans to cope with a flood of patients. On Saturday, Florida saw its largest single-day count of cases since the pandemic began. Oregon’s governor has paused a gradual reopening. And cases are rising swiftly around the largest cities in Texas, including Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.
“I’m very concerned about it,” said Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, noting that many residents had stopped wearing masks and maintaining social distance out of sheer fatigue. “They’ve been asked for quite some time to not be around people they love, and that they want to spend time with. Wearing a mask is not pleasant. And I think people are tired.”
The virus has caused more than 115,000 deaths in the United States, and the toll is rapidly climbing in Latin America — most notably in Brazil, which this weekend surged to the world’s second-highest number of fatalities, with 42,720 confirmed deaths. The country’s daily death toll is now the highest globally.
Throughout the region, the pandemic is straining health systems and economies that were already fragile. In Guatemala, at least 58 people on President Alejandro Giammattei’s staff have tested positive for the virus, although the president said he had tested negative. And in Chile, the health minister resigned this weekend amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic.
Even places that took strict, swift moves to thwart the virus have not been able to stamp it out as they face the reality that shutting down society for the duration of the pandemic is not feasible. Cases have spiked in India as it eased what had been the world’s largest lockdown. It now ranks fourth in reported cases.
As the reopening of cities and states across America advances, predictions of a surge in coronavirus cases have borne out in several places, particularly through the Sun Belt and the West.
Arizona, Texas and Florida are reporting their highest case numbers yet. And as of this weekend, the daily number of new cases was climbing in 22 states, shifting course from what had been downward trajectories in many of those places.
With many government limits on public life being removed and people left to make individual choices about precautions, Americans have gone back to salons and restaurants, crowded into public parks and, in dozens of cities, joined large public demonstrations protesting racism and police brutality.
And while some experts say that the raw numbers of new cases may reflect an increase in testing, epidemiologists said that even taking that into account, the rise in confirmed cases in Sun Belt states suggested more transmissions.
In Florida, which on Saturday saw its largest single-day count of cases since the pandemic began, Pat Gerard, the chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners in Pinellas County, has raised the specter of another clampdown on businesses.
“I think it’s only a matter of time,” she said at a board meeting this past week, “before the public sees those numbers and starts emailing us that we need to shut down again.”
As the world slowly reopens to tourism, this coming Monday and Tuesday are significant markers, especially in Europe, where the European Union plans to lift many internal barriers.
Some European countries have already been reaching out to tourists, as have Caribbean island nations like St. Lucia, though tourism remains banned across many parts of Africa and South America, and U.S. tourists are not yet allowed in Asian nations like Vietnam and Japan.
In Spain, the government said on Sunday that it would remove a quarantine order for foreign visitors on June 21, while keeping its land border with Portugal closed until July 1. The move, which is in line with a recent recommendation from the European Commission, means that tourists will be welcomed back by Spain on the same day that the country lifts a state of emergency that has been in place since mid-March.
And in Britain, the chancellor of the Exchequer told the BBC on Sunday that the government was considering making changes to a requirement that most foreign visitors undergo a 14-day self-quarantine, as part of a broader review of the country’s measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Where cross-border travel is permitted in the newly reopened destinations, some visitors will be required to self-quarantine, provide medical certificates or follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks in public places.
Additional waves of reopenings are expected later in the summer, but visitors from the United States are not typically allowed for now.
China on Sunday reported 57 new confirmed coronavirus infections, its highest single-day tally in two months, renewing fears that the country’s grip on the pandemic is not secure.
Of the 38 locally transmitted cases, 36 were in the capital, Beijing, where the authorities are conducting mass testing at a major seafood and produce market that appears to be the source of a new outbreak. It is the most cases the city has reported in one day since the virus first emerged. Beijing had gone eight weeks without a single locally transmitted case until a total of seven were detected on Thursday and Friday.
The other 19 cases China reported on Sunday involved travelers arriving from overseas, mostly in the southern province of Guangdong.
Nearly all of the dozens who tested positive in Beijing in recent days had worked or shopped at the Xinfadi market, a wholesale market on the city’s south side that sells seafood, fruit and vegetables, according to the Beijing health commission. The market has been shut down, and several nearby residential complexes are on lockdown.
More than 10,000 people work at the market, which supplies 90 percent of Beijing’s fruits and vegetables, according to the state news media. The virus was reportedly detected on cutting boards for imported salmon there.
The developments also prompted the authorities to partly or completely close five other Beijing markets and to tighten controls on movement in and out of the city.
China was the site of the first major coronavirus outbreak — with many of the first reported cases tied to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan. But as the pandemic has ravaged the rest of the world, China’s government has loudly promoted its apparent success in controlling the virus’s spread. According to New York Times data, mainland China has had 89,784 cases and 4,634 deaths as of Sunday.
Other developments around the world:
Egypt on Saturday reported 1,677 new coronavirus cases and 62 deaths, the country’s highest daily numbers since the virus emerged there in February.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said this weekend that he was prepared to reinstate a strict coronavirus lockdown if looser measures were not observed. Press TV, a state-run broadcaster, quoted him as saying that a recent drop in compliance “could be worrying.”
Immigration officials in Canada said the government might allow caregivers who are seeking asylum to remain in the country permanently because of their outsized contributions to fighting the pandemic.
When news reports emerged about a new coronavirus in China, Stephanie Garcia, a 23-year-old funeral director in Brooklyn, didn’t know what to make of them. She felt scared and confused, unsure how such a distant and invisible threat might affect New York.
Then the virus arrived in the United States, and New York City quickly became its epicenter. The virus has also disproportionately killed the city’s black and Latino residents.
And as the city reopens, one longtime funeral director in Harlem said, “It’s going to take a long time for people to heal.”
For Ms. Garcia, who works at International Funeral Service of New York, the pandemic has meant managing as many as 14 funerals in a week, compared with her previous four-per-week average.
“I never thought it would get this bad,” she said.
The surge has hit the death care industry especially hard, particularly in New York City, where there have been over 21,000 deaths. The city’s funeral homes are at maximum capacity.
Ms. Garcia and her colleagues are putting in 12-hour shifts — minimum. Yet there are days when she drives to work and catches glimpses of life marching on as if a pandemic weren’t tearing apart the city. Just the other day, her neighbors had a party in their backyard, and no one was wearing a mask.
“I’m seeing all these people who are not taking it seriously,” she said. “It’s crazy because for me, I’m living in this nightmare right now.”
From the outset of the pandemic, advocacy groups and the United Nations warned that women’s access to reproductive services could be imperiled as movement among jurisdictions became far more difficult.
In Europe, closed borders added an obstacle for women in countries with strict abortion regulations, such as Poland, if they wanted to seek the procedure elsewhere. The complications were exacerbated when countries including Germany and Austria did not label abortions as essential, time-sensitive procedures while tackling the health care demands of the pandemic.
But the pandemic also cracked open windows in some parts of the continent. France, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales in Britain all permitted at-home abortions with medication administered by prescription and the guidance of a medical professional via telephone or online.
Across the Atlantic, where the debate over abortion is more politicized, disruptions to services were more deliberate.
Anti-abortion governors in Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, Iowa and Alabama listed abortions as “nonessential” procedures, arguing that performing them would threaten supplies of medical resources and protective equipment.
In the meantime, some women ended up racing across state lines to avoid the new limitations. One traveled from Arkansas to Oklahoma to Kansas before she could terminate her pregnancy.
President Martín Vizcarra of Peru ordered one of Latin America’s first and strictest lockdowns, and rolled out one of the region’s biggest economic aid packages to help people stay home. He shared detailed health data with the public, increased testing and rushed to add hospital beds and ventilators.
Yet Peru has become one of the world’s worst coronavirus hot spots — its hospitals overwhelmed, its people fleeing the cities. The crisis has torn away Peru’s veneer of economic progress, exposing deep-rooted inequality and corruption that have thwarted its pandemic response.
“They asked us to stay at home, but a lot of people have no savings, so that was impossible,” said Hugo Ñopo, who works for Grade, a Peruvian research group. “They asked us to wash our hands, but one in three Peruvian households lacks access to running water.”
Only half of Peruvian homes have refrigerators, he said, so many families must return daily to crowded markets, a major source of contagion.
Peru’s tragedy is unfolding amid a broader explosion of the virus in Latin America, which over the past two months has been transformed from a haven into an epicenter of the pandemic. About 1.5 million people in Latin America have tested positive — and experts say the actual number of infections is much higher.
And with winter arriving in the southern part of the region and hurricane season in the northern part, the World Health Organization warned last week that adverse weather conditions could lead to a new spike in infections.
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Reporting and research were contributed by Julie Bosman, Scott Cacciola, Kevin Draper, Tess Felder, Manny Fernandez, Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Amy Harmon, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Iliana Magra, Patricia Mazzei, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Emily Palmer, Alexandra E. Petri, Monika Pronczuk, Simon Romero, Mitch Smith, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Mitra Taj.