News ID: 270874
Published: 0302 GMT June 30, 2020

EU to open borders to 'safe' countries as pandemic accelerates

EU to open borders to 'safe' countries as pandemic accelerates
Mario TamaGetty Images

The European Union will reopen its borders to a select list of "safe countries" to be confirmed Tuesday, as the WHO warned the pandemic is still accelerating with more than 500,000 deaths worldwide.

Europe's piecemeal reopening comes as countries around the globe struggle to revive economic activity while battling new spikes of the virus, with hotspots still surging in Latin America and in the United States, AFP reported.

After days of negotiations, EU member are due to finalize the list of some 15 countries, including Australia, Canada, Thailand, Japan, and others, whose citizens will be free to enter the bloc starting today.

The US, Russia and Brazil were among those expected not to make the selection, which will be updated every two weeks based on the safety situation in each state.

With some 10.3 million known infections worldwide, the pandemic is "not even close to being over", the World Health Organization warned.

"Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

In Europe, where infections have stabilized in many countries, the relaxation of lockdown measures is still touch-and-go as governments try to reboot economies facing historic recessions.

The UK, home to Europe's deadliest outbreak, has already seen its worst quarterly contraction in 40 years, shrinking 2.2 percent from January-March.

The worst is yet to come, with economists predicting a double-digit slump in output during the second quarter, placing Britain in a technical recession.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday vowed to deliver an "infrastructure revolution" to help the country build its way out of the economic slump.

In the meantime, his government is employing a "whack-a-mole" strategy of targeted lockdowns to snuff out the virus.

While the government plans to reopen pubs, restaurants and hairdressers across England on July 4, schools and nonessential shops in Leicester, central England, have been ordered to close after a localized outbreak.

Germany, which has been praised for its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, also saw its North Rhine-Westphalia state extend a lockdown on a district hit hard by a slaughterhouse outbreak.

And in Australia, a new spike in cases in parts of Melbourne spurred new stay-at-home measures affecting some 300,000 people.

COVID-19 is still tearing across the US, particularly in southern and western states where leaders pushed for early reopenings.

The country leads the world with more than 126,000 recorded deaths and 2.5 million cases.

In Houston, Texans waited for hours in their cars to get tested in a state that has seen infection rates double since early June.

Even in New York, deemed to be on the road to recovery, the iconic Broadway theatre district announced it would remain closed until the end of the year.

And the world-famous Cirque du Soleil troupe announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection and cutting thousands of jobs in a bid to survive the pandemic.

With numerous US states forced to reimpose restrictions on restaurants and beaches, US President Donald Trump has come under growing pressure to set an example by wearing a mask.


Window is closing" for US


Trump's health secretary has warned the "window is closing" for the US to regain control, but the president has largely turned away from the crisis, holding indoor rallies with big, largely maskless crowds against the advice of his experts and refusing to cover his own face in public.

And while opposition Democrats have urged Trump to reissue an emergency declaration on coronavirus, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had "no interest" in doing so.

The economy is expected to log its biggest decline on record in the April-June quarter, warned US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, adding that recovery would depend on government efforts to contain the outbreak.

The world's second hardest-hit country Brazil is still facing a steep curve of infections, registering 259,105 cases in the seven days through Sunday – the country's highest of any week during the pandemic.

Peru is also suffering, with more than 9,000 fatalities to date.

And in Iraq, overwhelmed doctors are struggling with mask shortages, unpaid salaries and dilapidated hospitals as daily infections rise.

Researchers in China, meanwhile, have announced the discovery a novel swine flu that was capable of triggering another pandemic.

It possesses "all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans," said the authors.


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