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AFP
June 27, 2020

Warnings after virus surges in US, Europe

World

AFP
June 27, 2020

WASHINGTON: The United States and Europe battled a resurgence of coronavirus cases on Friday, with Texas ordering bars to close and warnings mounting worldwide over lifting lockdowns too soon.

Britons were told to avoid packed beaches while a major Australian city faced a surge in infections that prompted a warning against the hoarding of toilet roll.

But Sweden lashed out at the World Health Organisation for listing it among at-risk European countries, in a sign of the sensitivities at play as countries try to manage the pandemic. More than 480,000 people worldwide have died from Covid-19 since it emerged in China late last year and cases are expected to reach 10 million across the globe within the next week.

Countries have been balancing the need to reopen economies shattered by coronavirus shutdowns with the need to maintain sufficient measures to prevent a feared second wave. In the United States, after hitting a two-month plateau, the rate of new cases is now soaring in southern and western states.

Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to close on Friday, further halting the phased reopening of the second most populous US state after California. Texas was among the most aggressive states in reopening in early June under Abbott, a Republican ally of President Donald Trump, who has faced sharp criticism for his handling of the crisis "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread," said Abbott.

The United States recorded 37,667 cases and 692 deaths in 24 hours, according to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, with nearly 122,000 lives lost overall -- by far the highest confirmed toll in the world. US health officials now believe based on antibody surveys that some 24 million people may have already been infected -- 10 times higher than the officially recorded figure of around 2.4 million.

In Latin America, Brazil, the hardest-hit country in the region, had close to 55,000 deaths and 1.2 million infections, while Mexico on Thursday surpassed 25,000 fatalities. The World Health Organisation warned on Thursday that Europe is not yet in the clear, saying 11 nations faced a "very significant resurgence" that could push health systems "to the brink once again".

Sweden on Friday however accused the WHO of a "total mistake" by listing it along with 10 other countries that are mostly poorer nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which is included in the WHO’s European region.

The Scandinavian country has made headlines for its high death toll after it opted not to introduce strict lockdowns. "We have an increase in cases because we have begun testing much more in Sweden the past week," said Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, adding that "all the other parameters" showed the number of serious cases was falling.