US hits 1-day virus record with 65,000 new cases; Australia locks down millions

US hits 1-day virus record with 65,000 new cases; Australia locks down millions

Trump downplays outbreak as 1,000 Americans die in 24 hours; global death toll surpasses 550,000; scientists say ‘strong evidence’ pregnant women can pass virus to unborn children

Medical personnel assist patients at a community coronavirus testing site operated in Burlington, North Carolina, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Medical personnel assist patients at a community coronavirus testing site operated in Burlington, North Carolina, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The US on Thursday recorded 65,551 new coronavirus cases, a new record for a 24-hour period, as the number of infections worldwide surged past 12 million.

The US, the hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic, has a total caseload of more than 3.1 million, with 133,195 deaths.

The previous daily record was Tuesday, with more than 60,200 cases in one day.

The US has seen a spike in infections in recent weeks, particularly in the south and west, and health experts worry the death rate may soon follow the same trajectory.

According to Johns Hopkins tracker, 1,000 people died from COVID-19 in the US in the last 24 hours prior to Thursday evening.

“We’re in a very difficult, challenging period right now,” top US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said Thursday during a teleconference organized by news outlet The Hill. As the country began reopening, many states “jumped over the benchmarks,” Fauci said, referring to indicators of a slowing infection rate required for states to begin phasing out of lockdowns.

“I would think we need to get the states pausing in their opening process,” he said, although he added: “I don’t think we need to go back to an extreme of shutting down.”

US President Donald Trump, who has openly said he disagrees with Fauci, downplayed the spike in cases.

US President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“For the 1/100th time, the reason we show so many Cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better,” he tweeted Thursday. “We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc.”

Caseloads and death tolls have risen relentlessly in many of the world’s biggest nations in recent weeks, with the virus now claiming over 550,000 lives across the planet.

Millions of people in Australia’s second-biggest city went into lockdown on Thursday to battle a fresh coronavirus outbreak in the region.

In Melbourne, five million people began a new lockdown just weeks after earlier restrictions ended as Australia battles a COVID-19 resurgence, with residents bracing for the emotional and economic costs.

“The idea of not being able to see people that you love and care for is really distressing, really distressing,” said tearful Melbourne resident Monica Marshall, whose 91-year-old mother recently entered a care home.

Shoppers in the state of Victoria — of which Melbourne is the capital — stripped shelves bare on Wednesday before the lockdown began, and the country’s largest supermarket chain said it had reimposed buying limits on items including pasta, vegetables and sugar.

A health worker takes a nasal swab of a person for a COVID-19 test at a hospital in New Delhi, India, July 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

‘Virus thrives on division’

National and international responses to the virus are under the microscope, with Trump’s earlier criticism of the World Health Organization as a “puppet of China” coming to a head this week.

The US has begun its formal pullout from the UN body, which opened an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic on Thursday while issuing a strong message on the need for togetherness.

“The virus thrives on division but is thwarted when we unite,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The enquiry panel, led by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will present initial findings next year.

The global death toll from the virus reached nearly 551,000, although nearly half of the 12.1 million reported cases being classed as recovered.

In a potentially worrying discovery, scientists in Italy said there was “strong evidence” that COVID-19 positive mothers can pass the virus on to their unborn children.

“Our study is aimed at raising awareness and inviting the scientific community to consider the pregnancy in positive women as an urgent topic to further characterize and dissect,” said Claudio Fenizia, from the University of Milan and lead study author.

Medical personnel struggle, in vain, to save the life of a patient in the coronavirus unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, July 6, 2020. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

‘I’m kind of scared’

Punishing lockdowns to try to prevent the spread of the disease have led to catastrophic economic downturns.

The pandemic could push 45 million people from the middle classes into poverty in already economically troubled Latin America and the Caribbean, the United Nations warned Thursday.

The United States remains the worst-hit nation but Trump remains keen for the economy to restart despite warnings about the dangers of reopening too soon.

He has even faced off with his own government’s experts, lashing out at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for issuing school reopening guidelines that he complained were too restrictive.

While a spike in coronavirus cases has forced some states to again close bars and restaurants, the measures do not seem to be affecting the steady drop in new claims for unemployment benefits — with the number at 1.3 million last week according to US government figures.

Local officials in many parts of the US are scrambling to contain the virus and several areas have canceled plans to reopen, with tens of thousands of new cases reported each day.

The Trump administration has set off alarm bells among foreign students at American universities, saying they cannot stay in the United States if their entire courses are forced online because of the pandemic.

“I’m kind of scared… I don’t have anyone to take care of me if I get ill,” said an Indian graduate student in Texas, who asked not to be named.

Protesters clash with Serbian riot police in Belgrade, Serbia, July 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Chaos in Belgrade

As talk of a second wave of the virus multiplies, some of the world’s most populous nations including India, Pakistan and Brazil are still reeling from their first outbreaks.

In the Middle East, hard-hit Iran reported a record single-day death toll of 221, taking its total to over 12,300.

In Europe, where many nations have successfully suppressed their outbreaks, France continued to re-emerge from the darkest days, announcing the Eiffel Tower would reopen its top level for the first time in three months.

Gyms, swimming pools and other outdoor areas are set to reopen in England later this month as the government further eases lockdown restrictions.

However, countries further east that had lifted their lockdowns sooner than France have found themselves plunged back into restrictions with a resurgent virus.

Bulgaria banned sports fans from stadiums and shut bars and clubs and Serbia announced that it would reinstate a weekend curfew — sparking two nights of violent protests.

Police fought with outraged demonstrators in Belgrade late on Wednesday, with clouds of tear gas and smoke filling the city center, a day after thousands came out to protest against the return of the lockdown.

Critics have accused the president of inviting a second wave of infections by lifting the initial lockdown too soon.

“The government only seeks to protect its own interests,” said 53-year-old Jelina Jankovic at the rally.

Sport continues to be affected. The final eight of the European Champions League in Lisbon is set to go ahead behind closed doors after UEFA confirmed Thursday that all matches in European competitions would be played without spectators “until further notice.”

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