English pubs reopen but not normal elsewhere in the world

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JOHANNESBURG – Pubs, hair salons and cinemas across England reopened on Saturday as part of Britain’s biggest step towards post-epidemic normality, while South Africa and other parts of the world have reported anything but – reporting another record day of confirmed coronavirus cases. Many people loved the loosening of restrictions on public life that had closed British restaurants and bars, although a professional group estimated that only half of English pubs had chosen to open on the first possible day. Those who decided to start pouring at the first authorized hour – 6 am – had customers to serve.

“Let’s not breathe now,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as some in England rushed to restaurants or barbers for the first time in more than three months.

Critics have pointed to the experience elsewhere in Europe and in some American states, where the reopening of bars and restaurants is blamed for an increase in infections of customers losing their inhibitions among foreigners and abandoning social distance after having a few drinks.

Raising concern for the British government has been too hasty: the World Health Organization said its member countries had reported more than 212,000 new cases of COVID-19 to the United Nations health agency on Saturday, the most sharp increase in one day since the start of the pandemic. The WHO said that more than half of new confirmed infections have been reported in the Americas region, which includes Brazil and the United States.

In the United States, where many parades and fireworks on July 4 have been canceled due to the virus, health officials have warned that Independence Day would be a crucial test of American self-control. Confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states, and the United States reported more than 50,000 new cases in the country on Saturday.

According to a count by Johns Hopkins University, more than 11.1 million people worldwide are infected with the virus, including 2.8 million in the United States. Due to lack of testing equipment, the actual number of cases is unknown. More than 527,000 people have died in the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

In South Africa, a growing hot spot as the pandemic accelerates in parts of Africa, confirmed cases have soared to more than 177,000, with a record 9,063 reported in the past 24 hours.

If the most developed country in Africa is struggling to manage the pandemic, this is worrying for the less prepared African countries. Confirmed cases on the continent of 54 countries now exceed 433,000.

India also reported its highest single-day peak, with 22,771 new confirmed cases for a total of more than 648,000, including 18,655 deaths.

Russia marked an important milestone as the death toll exceeded 10,000. The national coronavirus task force also reported 6,632 new infections, bringing the total epidemic to 674,515.

Russia’s workload is the third largest in the world after the United States and Brazil, but its reported deaths are lower than those of many other countries. Authorities have denied that the figures will be manipulated.

Elsewhere, authorities have targeted communities for special measures as virus clusters emerge.

The Australian state of Victoria has locked nine social housing towers and three other Melbourne suburbs after 108 new cases. Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has said that 3,000 people in the towers will enter a “severe lockdown,” which means “no one will be allowed in … and no one will be allowed out.”

Authorities in northeastern Spain have ordered the closure of the county of El Segria around the city of Lleida, home to more than 200,000 people, after health officials record a jump of 60 cases in 24 hours . The epidemics are linked to agricultural workers in rural areas.

And Tokyo confirmed 131 new cases, exceeding 100 for the third consecutive day and reaching a new two-month high, prompting Governor Yuriko Koike to ask residents to avoid non-essential out-of-town visits .

Concerns are mounting about the resurgence of infections, with Japan resuming activities as usual after the lifting of its state of emergency in May.

France said it was sending doctors to its South American territory in French Guiana, where infections increased as the virus swept across neighboring Brazil.

Of the approximately 5,000 new cases confirmed in France in the past week, 1,400 were in French Guiana, with a population of just 300,000, according to the health agency. The military transports patients from saturated facilities to the French Caribbean island of Martinique for treatment.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the way our country has responded to the pandemic has proven largely correct.” The country, which has more than 190,000 confirmed cases and five times fewer deaths than Britain, has started testing asymptomatic people in nursing homes.

Merkel paid tribute to the elderly, who, like elsewhere in the world, have been particularly affected. “The most painful thing was surely not being able to see the children and grandchildren for several weeks,” she said.

Determined to enjoy a vacation after months of uncertainty, thousands of tourists waited up to five hours on the border between Bulgaria and Greece in the scorching sun after their departure for the beaches of Greece.

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Associated Press writers around the world have contributed.

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