Spain locks down 200,000, Australia shuts off housing blocks as virus surges
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Spain locks down 200,000, Australia shuts off housing blocks as virus surges

Russia’s death toll climbs above 10,000; infections rise in South Africa; France sends medics to South American territory of French Guiana to help with growing numbers of patients

A local worker walks along an exhibition center turned into a temporary seasonal workers' shelter in Lleida, Spain, on July 2, 2020  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A local worker walks along an exhibition center turned into a temporary seasonal workers' shelter in Lleida, Spain, on July 2, 2020 (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

LLEIDA, Spain — Authorities in northeast Spain on Saturday ordered the lockdown of El Segriá county around the city of Lleida, home to over 200,000 people, after health officials recorded a jump of 60 cases in 24 hours.

The outbreaks are linked to agricultural workers in the rural area.

Catalan regional authorities announced that as of noon local time movement will be restricted to and from El Segriá, around Lleida. Residents will have until 4 p.m. local to enter the area.

This is the first restriction of free movement since the end of Spain’s state of emergency on June 21.

Spain was completely locked down from March to June to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, before its national government ended a state of emergency. Over 28,000 people are confirmed to have died from the virus in Spain.

More than 11 million people around the world are known to have been infected since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. With shortages of testing materials, the real number of cases is unknown.

The US plunged into Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, and health authorities warned it will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control.

People waiting in line to enter a grocery store wearing protective masks, on July 3, 2020, in McCandless, Pennsylvania (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states, and the US set another record Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins.

In South Africa, a growing hot spot as the pandemic picks up speed in parts of Africa, confirmed cases have climbed to more than 177,000, with a record 9,063 reported in the most recent 24-hour period.

Around 30% of cases are in Gauteng province, home of Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, as the country loosens lockdown measures under economic pressure.

If Africa’s most developed country is struggling to manage the pandemic, that’s ominous for less-prepared African nations. Confirmed cases across the 54-nation continent are now above 433,000.

Russia marked a milestone as the death toll rose above 10,000. The national coronavirus task force also reported 6,632 new infections, raising the total for the outbreak to 674,515.

Russia’s caseload is the world’s third largest behind the United States and Brazil, but its reported deaths are lower than many other countries. Officials have denied speculation that the figures are being manipulated.

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

Australia’s Victoria state locked down nine public housing towers and three more Melbourne suburbs after 108 new cases were discovered. Premier Daniel Andrews said 3,000 people in the towers will go into “hard lockdown,” meaning “there will be no one allowed in … and no one allowed out.”

Police vehicles park outside one of nine public housing estates which have been locked down in Melbourne on July 4, 2020 (William WEST / AFP)

France said it is sending medics to its South American territory of French Guiana to help treat growing numbers of patients in a region where half the population lives below the French poverty level. Infections surged as the virus swept neighboring Brazil.

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

Medical staff check medical equipment prior to an evacuation of patients infected with the coronavirus to hospitals of French West Indies, in the French overseas department of Guiana, on June 28, 2020. (Jody Amiet / AFP)

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the way our country reacted to the pandemic has largely proved to be right.” The country has over 190,000 confirmed cases and has started testing asymptomatic people in care homes.

Merkel paid tribute to the elderly, who like elsewhere in the world, have been particularly hard hit. They also have faced loneliness.

“The most painful thing was surely not to be able to see children and grandchildren for many weeks,” she said.

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