New virus outbreaks raise alarm as India cases hit 1 million

MITO, Japan —
Fresh coronavirus outbreaks, even in places as far flung as China’s western Xinjiang region, are prompting moves to guard against the pandemic, as the number of cases approaches 14 million.

India on Friday said it had surpassed 1 million cases, third only to the United States and Brazil, with more than 25,000 deaths. That followed Brazil’s announcement that the country had passed 2 million cases and 76,000 deaths — 1,000 fatalities a day, on average, since late May on a gruesome plateau yet to fall.

India’s grim milestone drove home concerns over a surge that could overwhelm hospitals and tax its feeble health care system.

In the technology hub of Bangalore, officials ordered a weeklong lockdown that began Tuesday evening after the cases surged exponentially.

Local governments are frantically trying to quash outbreaks and keep their economies running as the pandemic spreads in the vast countryside.

“The acceleration in cases remains the main challenge for India in the coming days,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, adding that a vast majority of cases were still being missed.

Tokyo hit a daily high of 293 infections as Japan tries to keep the world’s third-largest economy running while curbing infections — a precarious balancing act of opening restaurants and theaters with limited seating, and having store clerks work behind plastic shielding.

“We have asked people and businesses to raise their alert levels,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters. She said the recent higher numbers partly reflect more aggressive testing.

China on Friday reported nine imported cases and one instance of local transmission, in Xinjiang, where health officials were monitoring three other people and flights to and from the regional capital, Urumqi, reportedly were being restricted.

The Muslim-majority region is so far from Beijing that residents operate by their own, unofficial time zone and had until now been little affected by outbreaks elsewhere that appear to have been brought under control.

Efforts were underway to trace contacts of the factory worker who fell ill, the Urumqi Health Commission said on its WeChat social media site.

Meanwhile, Indonesia said large-scale restrictions in its capital would continue as new COVID-19 cases rise, with cinemas and other indoor entertainment spaces to remain closed.

“It will be very risky if we loosen the first phase of large-scale social restrictions to the second phase. So we decided to extend the social restrictions,” said Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan.

As of Thursday, 15,636 cases with 713 deaths had been recorded in Jakarta. Sweeping social restrictions were imposed on April 10 but relaxed two months later. Indonesia overall has reported nearly 82,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,800 deaths.

Israel reinstated virus precautions after a new surge in cases, with about 1,900 new cases reported on Thursday. Restaurants will be limited to takeout and delivery and many businesses will be closed on weekends. Beaches are to close on weekends later this month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “interim steps” were needed to avoid another general lockdown.

South Korean officials said they might be making headway in capping outbreaks that have expanded from the capital, Seoul. Of the 60 newly confirmed infections on Friday, 39 were linked to people arriving from abroad.

But a senior Health Ministry official, Yoon Tae-ho, said imported cases were less worrisome than local ones because they would are caught by mandatory testing and a 14-day quarantine for all people arriving from abroad.

More than 13.8 million infections have been confirmed and nearly 590,000 people have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are likely higher for various reasons, including limited testing.

Two-week quarantines are becoming the norm, and many governments have been rolling back reopenings and tightening restrictions to try to stave off further waves of new cases.

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, announced increased pandemic restrictions after detecting eight new COVID-19 cases. The state’s largest cluster, around 42 cases, began in a Sydney pub. It was connected to a visitor from Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city and its hot spot with a record 428 new cases. The city and a neighboring semi-rural area have been locked down since last week.

The coronavirus has been surging in hot spots around the U.S., with record numbers of confirmed infections and deaths in the South and West.

Hospitals are stretched to the brink in many areas amid fears the pandemic’s resurgence is only getting started. The rebound after shutdowns imposed in April were lifted has led to requirements for masks or other facial coverings in at least half of the 50 states.

Texas reported 10,000 new cases for the third straight day and 129 additional deaths. A third of its more than 3,400 total COVID-19 fatalities came in the first two weeks of July alone.

Florida reached another ominous record, with 156 virus deaths, and a staggering 13,965 new cases.

Reminiscent of New York City at the height of its outbreak, in Arizona the Phoenix medical examiner’s office is stocking up on storage coolers for an influx of bodies as funeral homes hit maximum capacity, with regular morgue storage nearly two-thirds full as of Thursday.

In Texas, San Antonio health officials have turned to refrigerated trailers to store the dead, and soldiers were preparing to take over a COVID-19 wing of a Houston hospital.

In hospitals in Hildago County, about 220 miles (354 kilometers) south of San Antonio on the Mexican border, it’s not uncommon for the body of a COVID-19 patient to lay on a stretcher for 10 hours before it can be removed in the overcrowded intensive care units, said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the county public health authority.

“Before someone gets a bed in the COVID ICU unit, someone has to die there,” Melendez said.

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Merchant reported from Houston. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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