Europe hit by local peaks of infection; China’s epidemic is shrinking

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Europe faced local spikes in coronavirus infections on Thursday as continental locking restrictions eased after hundreds of cases were found in a meat packaging plant in Germany and that Greece had to impose a total lockdown of seven days on a village.

The development came at a time when a new epidemic in Beijing saw a drop in daily cases and Hong Kong Disneyland reopened after a significant drop in infections in China.

In western Germany, health officials in Guetersloh said Wednesday that the number of new COVID-19 cases linked to the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck had risen to 657, an important regional peak for a country that has recorded daily infections nationwide in the hundreds of hundreds lately.

“It is no coincidence that the Toennies slaughterhouse has become the next hot spot for coronavirus infections,” said Freddy Adjan, vice president of the NGG union representing workers in the food and beverage industry .

According to him, workers employed by subcontractors are faced with “catastrophic working and living conditions”.

Germany is widely regarded as having handled the pandemic well. The infection rate fell sharply after authorities imposed national social distancing rules in March and the daily increase in cases averaged between 300 and 400 in June. Germany has registered 188,474 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 8,844 deaths – about one fifth of the number of deaths in Britain.

Greek authorities on Thursday imposed a complete foreclosure on Echinos, which has an estimated 3,000 residents, in the northeastern province of Xanthi, after an outbreak of cases and deaths, while the small Balkan nation of Monetenegro reported new infections after weeks with no positive signs. case ..

All residents of Echinos were under curfew, allowed to leave their homes only to buy food or medicine and only by wearing masks, after 73 new cases of coronavirus and four deaths recorded last week.

Greece has been widely praised for successfully containing its epidemic, with only 187 virus-related deaths and just over 3,200 confirmed cases.

In neighboring Turkey, authorities have made it compulsory to wear the mask in three major cities, including the financial center of Istanbul and the capital of Ankara, following an increase in confirmed cases, as many companies have been allowed to reopen.

In China, an outbreak detected at a wholesale market in the capital last week has infected at least 158 ​​people in the country’s biggest resurgence since the initial outbreak was brought under control in March. The city reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, up from 31 on Wednesday. City officials said close contacts with market workers, visitors and other connections were being sought to locate all other cases as quickly as possible.

The United States, on the other hand, has put increasing pressure on Chinese leaders to reveal what they know about the pandemic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “stressed the need for full transparency and information sharing to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and prevent future epidemics,” the department said. US state about meeting with the Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi.

Pompeo joined President Donald Trump in criticizing China’s response to the epidemic, including that the virus may have emerged from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.

China is also invited to mitigate the financial consequences of the virus in Africa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke to Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a China-Africa online summit and reminded China that African countries are seeking significant debt relief in the fight against the pandemic.

Next week, African countries will hold a high-level conference on coronavirus vaccines to “position themselves not to be left behind” in access to medicines, said John Nkengasong, head of the African Centers for Disease, on Thursday. disease control and prevention.

He said the head of WHO would attend talks which would also focus on “how we can make a vaccine ourselves”, noting that several countries, including Senegal, Egypt and South Africa, have already vaccine manufacturing capabilities.

The 54 African countries are deeply concerned about access to tests and medical supplies in a context of intense global competition. The continent has about 260,000 cases, with South Africa accounting for around 30%.

The virus has infected more than 8.3 million people since its appearance in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year and has killed nearly 450,000 people, according to a Johns Hopkins count of official data. Both figures are believed to deeply underestimate the true toll due to limited testing and other factors.

The United States has by far the most infections and deaths, with 2.1 million people infected and more than 117,000 dead. Americans have struggled with deep emotional divisions between those who support blockages and restrictions such as wearing masks to stop the spread of the virus and those who believe such measures infringe individual freedoms.

Other countries are also facing politicized debates amid growing infections.

India recorded its largest one-day increase with 12,281 cases, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected the imposition of a new ban, saying the country should think about unlocking the economy further.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia as the country struggles under the pressure of the pandemic and cases are increasing sharply in the capital. Cases in Mexico continue to grow at almost record levels as the economy begins to reopen.

More than a week after New Zealand declared itself virus-free, the country confirmed three new cases: a man who arrived from Pakistan and two women who returned from Britain.

A bright spot appeared in Hong Kong with the reopening of Disneyland. Advance reservations are required and only limited participation is allowed at the park, one of the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s critical tourism industry. Social distancing measures aimed to avoid mixing different families in queues, restaurants, rides and shops, and more intensive cleaning measures were put in place.

Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million, has registered only 1,120 cases and four deaths from COVID-19, but has had a serious financial impact as it is highly dependent on international travel and Chinese visitors. Most visitors are still barred, and Disneyland said anyone who had traveled outside of Hong Kong in the past two weeks would be encouraged to reschedule their visit.

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Jordans reported from Berlin and Moritsugu reported from Beijing. Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed.

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