BEIJING (AP) -
China raised its emergency warning to its second-highest level and canceled
more than 60% of the flights to Beijing on Wednesday amid a new coronavirus
outbreak in the capital. It was a sharp pullback for the nation that
declared victory over COVID-19 in March and a message to the rest of the
world about how tenacious the virus really is.
spiked in India, Iran and U.S. states including Florida, Texas and Arizona
as authorities struggled to balance restarting economic activity without
accelerating the pandemic.
which embarked on a wide-scale reopening this week, looked on with
trepidation as the Americas struggled to contain the first wave of the
pandemic and Asian nations like China and South Korea reported new
described the situation in Beijing as “extremely grave.”
“This has truly
rung an alarm bell for us,” Party Secretary Cai Qi told a meeting of
Beijing’s Communist Party Standing Committee.
After a push that
began June 14, the city expects to have tested 700,000 people by the end of
the day, said Zhang Qiang, a Beijing party official. About half of them were
workers from the city’s food markets, nearby residents and close contacts.
The party’s Global
Times said 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports were
scrapped by Wednesday morning, about two-thirds of those scheduled.
Since the virus
emerged in China late last year and spread worldwide, there have been more
than 8.1 million confirmed cases and at least 443,000 deaths, according to a
tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll is much
higher, due to the many who died without being tested and other factors.
The U.S. has the
most infections and deaths in the world, with a toll that neared 117,000 on
Wednesday, surpassing the number of Americans who died in World War I.
Arizona reported a
daily high of nearly 2,400 new infections for a total of more than 39,000,
while in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott insisted the state’s health care system
could handle the fast-rising number of new cases and hospitalizations.
Tuesday marked the
eighth time in nine days that Texas set a new high for COVID-19
hospitalizations at 2,518. State health officials reported 2,622 new cases.
“It does raise
concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed,” Abbott said.
aggressively reopening its economy May 1. Abbott noted that Texans may have
become lax in wearing masks or practicing social distancing and urged people
to stay home as much as possible.
Canada and the U.S.
extended to July 21 a deal to keep their border closed to nonessential
travel, with many Canadians fearing cases arriving from the U.S.
As the U.S.
struggles with the first wave of the virus, other countries where it was
widely thought to be under control faced disturbing developments.
In South Korea,
authorities reported 43 new cases amid increased public activity.
Authorities said 25 of them came from around Seoul, where hundreds of
infections have been linked to nightclubs, church gatherings, e-commerce
workers and door-to-door salespeople. Twelve of the new cases came from
Not long after
declaring itself virus-free, New Zealand saw a reemergence of the virus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assigned a top military leader to oversee the
border quarantines after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by
Two New Zealand
citizens who had returned from London to see a dying relative were allowed
to leave quarantine before being tested. After the women tested positive,
New Zealand began tracing their potential contacts to ensure the virus is
Their cases raised
the specter that international air travel could ignite a new surge of the
virus just as countries seek to boost devastated tourism industries.
China also limited
other travel around the capital, keying in on hot spots. Beijing had
essentially eradicated local transmissions until recent days, with 137 new
cases since last week.
On Wednesday, the
city of 20 million raised its threat level from 3 to 2, canceling classes,
suspending reopenings and strengthening requirements for social distancing.
China had relaxed many lockdown controls after the Communist Party declared
victory over the virus in March.
India, with the
fourth-highest caseload after the U.S., Brazil and Russia, added more than
2,000 deaths to its tally after Delhi and Maharashtra states included 1,672
previously unreported fatalities. Its death toll of 11,903 is now
eighth-highest in the world. India has reported 10,000 new infections and
more than 300 deaths each day for the last two weeks.
outbreak comes after a major Muslim holiday last month and as travel and
lockdown restrictions were relaxed. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said he
realized the extent of the challenge when he took a domestic flight.
“Many people have
become careless, frustrated with wearing masks,” he said. “They did not
observe (social) distancing in the flight’s seating and the airliner’s
ventilation system was not working.”
In Europe, which
has seen over 184,000 virus-related deaths, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro S‡nchez
announced the country will hold a ceremony July 16 to honor its more than
said over 400 people at a large meatpacking plant had tested positive for
COVID-19, prompting authorities to order the closure of all schools and
childcare centers in the western region of Guetersloh. The industry has seen
several outbreaks in recent weeks, prompting the government to impose
stricter safety rules.
minister urged anyone who joined a large racial injustice protest on June 7
to be tested “whether you have symptoms or not” after one person in the
crowd was found to be infected.
“As long as we have
the virus in Europe and in Denmark, it will flare up. We are dealing with a
very, very contagious disease,” said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke.