New Beijing outbreak raises fears for the rest of the world


Germany records 657 virus cases at slaughterhouse

It came as regional officials in western Germany said on Wednesday that the number of new COVID-19 cases linked to a large meatpacking plant had risen to 657, a higher figure than many recent daily increases for the entire country.

Health officials in Guetersloh said they have received a total of 983 test results so far from workers at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck. Of those, 326 tests were negative.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised regional officials for swiftly closing schools in the region.

“We are far away from an exponential increase,” Merkel said, insisting that the country would continue to try to relax restrictions despite the local outbreak at the slaughterhouse.

“But we see from these outbreaks that the virus isn’t gone,” she added.

Company officials at Toennies said the outbreak at the slaughterhouse may have been linked to workers taking the opportunity to visit their families in eastern European countries as border controls were relaxed.

Officials ordered the closure of the slaughterhouse, as well as isolation and tests for everyone else who had worked at the Toennies site – putting about 7000 people under quarantine.

Situation ‘extremely grave’ in China

Chinese officials 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 on June 14, the city expects to have tested 700,000 people by the end of the day, said Zhang Qiang, a Beijing party official.

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About half of them were workers from the city’s food markets, nearby residents and close contacts.

The party’s Global Times said 1255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports were scrapped by Wednesday morning, about two-thirds of those scheduled.

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, cancelling classes, suspending re-openings and strengthening requirements for social distancing.

Since the virus was detected 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.

Medical staff test a person for COVID-19 near the Xinfadi Market in Beijing.

Medical staff test a person for COVID-19 near the Xinfadi Market in Beijing.Credit:Getty Images

US toll passes 117,000

The US has the most infections and deaths in the world, with a toll that passed 117,000 on Wednesday, surpassing the number of citizens who died in World War I.

Arizona reported a daily high of nearly 2400 new infections for a total of more than 39,000, while in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott insisted the state’s health care system could handle the fast-rising number of new cases and hospitalisations.

Tuesday marked the eighth time in nine days that Texas set a new high for COVID-19 hospitalisations at 2518.

Abbott noted that Texans may have become lax in wearing masks or practising social distancing and urged people to stay home as much as possible.

Canada and the US extended to July 21 a deal to keep their border closed to non- essential travel, with many Canadians fearing cases arriving from the US.

South Korea reports new cases

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 international arrivals.

India, with the fourth-highest caseload after the US, Brazil and Russia, added more than 2000 deaths to its tally after Delhi and Maharashtra states included 1672 previously unreported fatalities.

Its death toll of 11,903 is now eighth-highest in the world.

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India has reported 10,000 new infections and more than 300 deaths each day for the last two weeks.

Iran’s latest outbreak comes after a major Muslim holiday last month and as travel and lockdown restrictions were relaxed.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki said he realised 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.”

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