Spain reopens borders after 3 months in lockdown
Spain reopened its borders to European tourists Sunday in a bid to kickstart its economy while Brazil and South Africa struggled with rising coronavirus infections. At a campaign rally, President Donald Trump said he told the U.S. government to reduce testing for the virus, apparently to avoid unflattering statistics ahead of the U.S. election in November.
The head of the World Health Organization has warned that the global spread of the virus is accelerating after a daily high of 150,000 new cases was reported last week.
The new coronavirus has infected over 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 by how many cases and deaths were actually occurring in the United States, which tops the world in both categories by far. Health experts say not testing for coronavirus should increase the overall number of cases because infected people won’t know that they should quarantine themselves.
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.”
Spain on Sunday ended a national state of emergency after three months of lockdown, allowing its 47 million residents to freely travel around the country for the first time since March 14. Spain also dropped a 14-day quarantine for visitors from Britain and countries in Europe’s visa-free Schengen travel zone to boost its vital tourism sector.
But there was only a trickle of travelers at Madrid-Barajas Airport, which on a normal June day would be bustling.
“This freedom that we now have, not having to justify our journey to see our family and friends, this was something that we were really looking forward to,” Pedro Delgado, 23, said after arriving in the Spanish capital from Spain’s Canary Islands.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged people to exercise maximum public health precautions, saying that even though Europe is stabilizing, the virus is running rampant on other continents.
“The warning is clear,” Sánchez said. “The virus can return and it can hit us again in a second wave, and we have to do whatever we can to avoid that at all cost.”
The number of confirmed virus cases is still growing rapidly in Brazil, South Africa, the United States and other countries, especially in Latin America.
Brazil’s Health Ministry said the total number of cases had risen by more than 50,000 in a day. President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying virus risks even as his country has seen nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months, the second-highest death toll in the world.
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 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, one meatpacking plant in northwest Germany alone has 1,029 cases, so the regional government issued a quarantine for all 6,500 workers, managers and family members at the Toennies meat processing facility in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government will announce next week whether Britain will ease social distancing rules for people to remain 2 meters (6½ feet) apart. Business groups are lobbying for that to be cut to 1 meter (3 feet) to make it easier to reopen pubs, restaurants and schools, but that could also lead to more infections.
Britain has Europe’s highest virus death toll — and the world’s third-highest — at more than 42,500 dead.
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. The Ming Tombs, a tourist site northwest of Beijing, was closing its indoor areas as a precaution.
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.
Nearly 200 infections have been traced to employees at a door-to-door sales company in Seoul and at least 70 other infections are tied to a table tennis club there, but South Korean officials are reluctant to enforce stronger social distancing to avoid hurting the country’s fragile economy.
In the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority reimposed restrictions in the West Bank after 86 people tested positive. Access to the city of Hebron was suspended and residents were put under a five-day curfew. The city of Nablus is to be isolated for two days.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government will weigh possible steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus after the country has seen a major uptick of more than 300 confirmed cases in recent days.
Pandemic lockdown restrictions also prevented druids, pagans and party-goers on Sunday from watching the sun rise at the ancient circle of Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. English Heritage, which runs the site, livestreamed it instead but a few people gathered outside the fence.
“You can’t cancel the sunrise,” druid Arthur Pendragon told the BBC.