MADRID: Spain reopened its borders to British tourists on Sunday in a bid to kickstart its economy while Brazil and South Africa struggled with rising levels of coronavirus infections. At a campaign rally, President Donald Trump said he told his government to reduce US testing for the virus, an apparent attempt to avoid unflattering statistics.
The head of the World Health Organization has warned that the virus’s global spread is accelerating after a daily high of 150,000 new cases was reported last week.
The new coronavirus has infected nearly 8.8 million people and killed more than 464,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The true number is thought to be much higher because many cases go untested.
At a campaign rally in Tulsa Oklahoma, Trump said Saturday he has told his administration to slow down virus testing. He said the United States has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that it found more cases.
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”
The infections would still exist, of course, but Trump’s campaign would not have to be embarrassed at how many infections and deaths were actually occurring in the United States, which tops the world by far in both categories. Health experts say not knowing about coronavirus cases should crease the overall number of cases because infected people won’t know that they should quarantine themselves to protect their loved ones.
The outbreak has infected 2.2 million people in the United States, killing nearly 120,000, according to Johns Hopkins.
The campaign of Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival in November’s presidential election, accused Trump of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people.”
As European governments eased more lockdown restrictions, virus case numbers are rising in South Africa, Brazil, the United States and other countries.
Brazil’s Health Ministry said Saturday the total number of cases had risen by more than 50,000 from the previous day. President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying the risks despite nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months, the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States.
South Africa reported a one-day high of 4,966 new cases on Saturday and 46 deaths. Despite the increase, President Cyril Ramaphosa 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 virus appeared to be spreading across the west and south. Arizona reported 3,109 new infections, just short of Friday’s record, and 26 deaths. The state of Nevada also reported a new high of 445 cases.
In Europe, Germany reported 687 new cases, its highest one-day toll in a month, after earlier managing the outbreak better than other large European nations. Over 1,000 cases have been found at one meatpacking plant alone.
Spain dropped a 14-day quarantine requirement for British visitors effective Sunday. British travelers make up a large part of Spain’s vital tourism sector, which has been especially hard-hit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government says it will announce next week whether Britain will ease social distancing rules that say people should remain 2 meters (6½ feet) apart. Business groups are lobbying for the distance to be cut to 1 meter (3 feet) to make it easier to reopen pubs, restaurants and schools, but it could also lead to more infections.
Britain has Europe’s highest and the world’s third-highest official virus death toll at more than 42,500.
In Asia, China and South Korea reported new coronavirus cases Sunday in outbreaks that threatened to set back their recoveries.
Chinese authorities reported 25 new confirmed cases — 22 in Beijing and three in neighboring Hebei province. They said 2.3 million people have been tested to contain the outbreak in the capital that has led to the closure of its biggest wholesale food market.
In South Korea, authorities reported 48 new cases. Half were in the capital, Seoul. Ten were in the central city of Daejong, suggesting the virus was spreading more widely as lockdown measures are relaxed.
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 northwest 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 and at least 70 infections have been linked to a table tennis club in Seoul. But South Korean officials are reluctant to enforce stronger social-distancing to avoid hurting the fragile economy.
In the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority reimposed restrictions in the West Bank after 86 people tested positive on Saturday. Access to the city of Hebron was suspended and residents were put under a five-day curfew. Another city, Nablus, is to be isolated for two days.