News ID: 270606
Published: 0304 GMT June 24, 2020

Virus death toll nears half a million as cases surge in US, Latin America

Virus death toll nears half a million as cases surge in US, Latin America
A Covid-19 patient is treated at a hospital in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 22, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus cases are surging across large parts of the United States and in Latin America, according to experts and figures, highlighting how far the world remains from stopping the pandemic as the global death toll neared half a million on Wednesday.

The number of deaths worldwide from the outbreak has surged past 477,000, a doubling of the toll in less than two months, according to an AFP tally on Wednesday.

China, where the virus was first detected in the city of Wuhan in December, said a new outbreak that has infected 256 people in Beijing since early June is "under control", but fears remain over the risk of community transmission.

Experts warned that small, recurrent outbreaks of the virus were likely in future.

"There may be an increase in cases in the winter or next spring, but I don't think the outbreak will be as big as the first wave of the pandemic," Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese respiratory expert, said on Wednesday

Europe remains the worst-hit region with over 194,000 dead from more than 2.5 million cases.

The continent has been loosening travel restrictions following a brutal few months when it was the epicenter of the pandemic.


'Real risk'


Just a day after the biggest lifting of the restrictions yet in England, medical experts on Wednesday warned the British government to prepare for the "real risk" of a second wave.

Germany, the first major EU nation to begin easing lockdown measures, on Tuesday reimposed them on more than 600,000 people following a cluster of infections at a slaughterhouse.

The United States has recorded more deaths than any other nation, with more than 121,000 from over 2.3 million cases.

White House advisor Anthony Fauci warned the next two weeks would be "critical to our ability to address... surgings" in Florida, Texas and other states.

However President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis has been widely criticized as erratic, is determined to fast-track efforts to restore normality.

He continued to stoke controversy on Tuesday, doubling down on weekend comments he wanted to slow testing because so many confirmed infections made the United States look bad.

"I don't kid," Trump said, after a White House official described his initial comments as just a joke.

With the parts of the United States unable to contain the pandemic, the European Union was considering blocking US travelers as it reopens its borders to tourism, The New York Times reported.


'Little flu'


Latin America has been one of the world's worst hotspots for weeks, and the number of deaths there and in the Caribbean surpassed 100,000, according to an AFP tally.

Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has flouted containment measures and described the virus as a "little flu", is officially the worst-hit country after the United States.

More than 52,000 people are confirmed to have died of the virus in Brazil, as a federal judge ordered Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public.

"The president has a constitutional obligation to follow the laws in force in the country, as well as to promote the general welfare of the people," the judge wrote.


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