Governments were stepping up testing and warily considering their next moves Monday as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases surges in many countries. India reported 20,000 new cases Monday, while the US confirmed more than 40,000 new infections for the third straight day.
As infections rise along with summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere, many governments are stepping up testing and mulling more aggressive moves such as renewed lockdowns to stem fresh outbreaks.
India’s 20,000 new infections was a new daily record. Several states reimposed partial or full lockdowns after the total number of cases jumped by nearly 100,000 in one week to 548,318.
The United States, the worst affected country, has surpassed 2.5 million infections, or about a quarter of all of the more than 10 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the actual numbers, both in the US and globally, are likely far higher due to the large number of apparently asymptomatic cases and issues with testing.
More than 500,000 coronavirus-related deaths have also been reported worldwide.
Hardest hit in the United States have been southern and western states that pushed for early economic reopenings.
But the latest upsurge, pushing the nation’s death toll past 125,000, has prompted a growing chorus of calls for much tougher rules and enforcement.
“This is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
In some areas, mask-wearing has taken on a political edge rather than being seen as a straightforward health choice, with many people, including President Donald Trump still refusing to wear them.
In China, nearly 8.3 million people out of some 21 million have undergone testing in recent weeks in the capital Beijing after an outbreak centred on a wholesale market. The country had 12 new cases Monday, including seven in Beijing, down by more than half from the day before, the National Health Commission reported.
South Korean authorities reported 47 new cases as they struggled to curb outbreaks that have spread from Seoul to other regions.
South Korean health officials have said they are ready to implement stronger social distancing measures – including banning all gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting schools, halting professional sports, and restricting operations of non-essential businesses – if the daily increase in infections doubles more than two times in a week.
Health authorities are using what they describe as a world-first saliva test for coronavirus in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne in the state of Victoria, where the disease is spreading at an alarming rate.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said Monday that 75 people had tested positive in the state in the latest 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 2,099.
The Philippines remains a Southeast Asian coronavirus hotspot with more than 35,000 confirmed infections, including 1,244 deaths. Restrictions have been eased in many places to help salvage the ailing economy, but Cebu resumed a strict lockdown this month after new cases spiked.
Some governments are pushing ahead with reopening travel, particularly between countries where outbreaks of the virus appear to be contained, though the changing landscape of the pandemic suggests the process will be complicated and subject to change.
The European Union is preparing a list of 15 countries whose nationals will be allowed to visit the bloc beginning Wednesday, Spain’s Foreign Minister Aranch Gonzalez Laya said.
The resurgence of cases in the US means Americans may not be on that list. Gonzalez Laya said countries would be chosen according to their coronavirus status and the reliability of their data, she said.
“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries, this is an exercise of self-responsibility,” she said. She confirmed that Spain would reopen its borders with Portugal despite rising infections there.
Meanwhile, Thailand will allow pubs and bars to reopen on Wednesday and plans to let in some foreign travellers after recording five weeks without any community transmission of the coronavirus, a government official said.
Pubs, bars and karaoke venues will be able to operate until midnight as long as they follow safety guidelines such as ensuring two metre spaces between tables.
Foreigners with work permits, residency and families in Thailand will also be able to enter the country, but will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Foreigners seeking certain types of medical treatment such as some cosmetic surgery or fertility treatment could also be allowed into the country, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said.
Business visitors from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, mainland China and Hong Kong could also be exempted from a two-week quarantine period under a fast track entry if they have certificates to show they were free from Covid-19 and were tested upon arrival.