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Health workers in India travel on a bus to conduct a free medical checkups in Mumbai. Coronavirus cases are surging in India, with over 600,000 infections. Photo: AP

Coronavirus: US, South Africa, Indonesia see record new daily infections

  • The US reported 50,700 new Covid-19 cases in a single day, with other countries seeing cases surging as they reopen their economies after lockdowns
  • The World Health Organisation said smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalised patients
The United States, South Africa and Indonesia have all reported record new daily coronavirus infections, with US figures surpassing 50,000 cases a day for the first time, underlining the challenges still ahead as nations press to reopen their virus-devastated economies.
Globally there have been 10.7 million coronavirus cases and more than 516,000 dead, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The true toll of the pandemic is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have been missed.
The US has now reported nearly 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 dead. On Wednesday, it recorded 50,700 new cases, as many states struggled to contain the spread of the pandemic, blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following social distancing rules.

Surging numbers in California prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to announce just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend that he was closing bars, theatres and indoor restaurant dining over most of the state, a region that includes about 30 million people and Los Angeles County. “The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said.

Confirmed cases in California have increased nearly 50 per cent over the past two weeks, and Covid-19 hospitalisation have gone up 43 per cent. Newsom said California had nearly 5,900 new cases and 110 more deaths in just 24 hours.

Infections have been surging in many other states as well, including Florida, Arizona and Texas. Florida recorded more than 6,500 new cases and counties in South Florida were closing beaches to fend off large July Fourth crowds that could further spread the virus.

“Too many people were crowding into restaurants late at night, turning these establishments into breeding grounds for this deadly virus,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.

Despite the fact that the US has the highest number of infections and deaths in the world by far, US President Donald Trump seemed confident the coronavirus would soon subside. “I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus,” he told Fox Business. “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”

Several eastern states have seen their new infections slow down significantly, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey, which was going ahead on Thursday with allowing its famous Atlantic City casinos to reopen.

Trump shifts messaging on masks, saying he’s open to wearing one in public

In South Africa on Thursday, authorities reported 8,124 new cases, a new daily record. The country has the most cases in Africa with more than 159,000, as it loosens what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

Johannesburg is a new hotspot with hundreds of health workers infected and Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, has more than 45,000 confirmed cases. The African continent has more than 405,000 confirmed cases overall.

People wearing face masks play chess at a park in Denpasar, Bali, as Indonesia reported a new daily record in coronavirus cases. Photo: EPA-EFE
Indonesia’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 rose to nearly 60,000 on Thursday, the country’s biggest single-day jump.

The number of cases rose by 1,624 in the past 24 hours, taking the national tally to 59,394, the Health Ministry said. There were 53 additional deaths, bringing the number of fatalities to 2,987, the ministry said.

Indonesia began to gradually reopen its economy last month and, since then, the number of daily cases has been consistently above 1,000.

Experts say the actual number of cases is likely to be higher, given low rates of testing. The country of 267 million has so far only tested 503,000 people, according to Health Ministry figures.

Authorities in the capital Jakarta this week decided to maintain some travel and social restrictions for another two weeks following the emergence of new cases that were traced to traditional markets and trains.

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India, the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, surpassed 600,000 infections on Thursday after over 19,000 new cases were reported. India has reported nearly 100,000 new cases in the past four days alone.

Despite the surging numbers, the western beach of state of Goa, a popular backpacking destination, allowed 250 hotels to reopen on Thursday after being closed for more than three months. Tourists will either have to carry Covid-19 negative certificates or get tested on arrival.

Many industries and businesses have reopened across the country, and Indians have cautiously returned to the streets. Schools, colleges and cinemas are still closed.

Coronavirus: how India’s largest slum beat back the pandemic, for now

In Japan, the capital of Tokyo confirmed 107 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, nearly triple that of June 24, just before the number began to spike. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said many cases were linked to nightclubs and bars, and urged their workers to proactively be tested and take further safety measures.

“We need to use caution against the spread of the infections,” Koike said.

South Korea confirmed 54 more Covid-19 cases on Thursday as the coronavirus continued to spread beyond the capital region and reach cities like Gwangju, which has shut schools and tightened social restrictions after dozens fell sick this week.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks at an emergency news conference after daily new cases exceeded 100 on Thursday. Photo: EPA-EFE
Iran’s death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 11,000 on Thursday, the health ministry said, as the country struggles to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of Covid-19.

Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in fatalities and new confirmed cases in recent months, after Iran reported a near-two month low in daily recorded infections in early May.

“In the past 24 hours, we lost 148 of our compatriots due to infection with Covid-19,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV. That brings Iran’s overall death toll to 11,106, with 232,863 cases, 2,652 of which were confirmed in the past day.

On the medical front, the World Health Organisation said smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalised patients, although it was unable to specify exactly how much greater those risks might be.

In a scientific brief, the UN health agency reviewed 34 published studies on the association between smoking and Covid-19, including the probability of infection, hospitalisation, severity of disease and death.

The WHO noted that smokers represent up to 18 per cent of hospitalised coronavirus patients and that there appeared to be a significant link between whether patients smoked and the severity of disease they suffered, the type of hospital interventions required and patients’ risk of dying.

Additional reporting by AFP, DPA

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: US, South Africa, Indonesia set new daily records