China, Korea report new infections; Trump wants less testing

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jun 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-21 01:54:36-04

BEIJING (AP) — China and South Korea reported new coronavirus cases Sunday in outbreaks that threatened to set back their recovery, while President Donald Trump said he told his government to reduce U.S. testing to avoid unflattering statistics showing rising infections.

Chinese authorities reported 25 new confirmed cases — 22 in Beijing and three in neighboring Hebei province. It said 2.3 million people have been tested in an effort to contain the outbreak in the capital that led to the closure of its biggest wholesale food market.

In South Korea, authorities reported 48 new cases. Half were in the capital, Seoul. Ten were in the central city of Daejong, suggesting the virus was spreading more widely as anti-disease measures are relaxed.

The head of the World Health Organization warned Friday the virus’s global spread was accelerating after a daily high of 150,000 new cases was reported the previous day.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 454,000 people and infected more than 8.5 million, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The true number is thought to be much higher because many cases go untested.

At a campaign rally, Trump said Saturday he has told his administration to slow down virus testing. He said the United States has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that found more cases.

“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ “

The campaign of his likely Democratic rival in November’s presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden, accused Trump in a statement of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people.”

Some governments including Spain, Britain and France are relaxing controls and reviving business activity. But case numbers are rising in South Africa, Brazil, the United States and some other countries.

Brazil’s Health Ministry said Saturday the total number of cases had risen by more than 50,000 from the previous day. President Jair Bolsonaro is downplaying the risks despite nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months.

South Africa reported a one-day high of 4,966 new cases on Saturday and 46 deaths. Despite the increase, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced a further loosening of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service will be allowed to reopen.

In the United States, the state of Arizona reported 3,109 new infections, just short of Friday’s record, and 26 deaths. The state of Nevada also reported a new high of 445 cases.

The outbreak has killed about 120,000 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.

China, where the outbreak began in December, and South Korea, the second country to report a spike in infections, had eased controls on travel and business as new cases fell. They have reimposed monitoring and some other restrictions following their recent jump in infections.

The Beijing health commission gave no details of where the latest cases might have originated. The Chinese capital’s biggest wholesale food market was closed June 13 after dozens of people who worked there tested positive.

The agency in charge of the Ming Tombs, a tourist site northwest of Beijing, said indoor areas will be closed as a safety precaution. Visitors are allowed in outdoor areas but are required to wear masks and be checked for fever.

In South Korea, nearly 200 infections have been traced to employees at a door-to-door sales company in Seoul, which mostly hired people over 60, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 70 infections have been linked to a table tennis club in Seoul whose members also passed the virus at a church.

South Korean officials are reluctant to enforce stronger social-distancing to avoid hurting the fragile economy.

In Middle East, the Palestinian Authority reimposed restrictions in the West Bank after 86 people tested positive on Saturday. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced access to the city of Hebron was suspended and residents put under a five-day curfew. Another city, Nablus, is to be isolated for two days.

In Europe, Germany reported 687 new cases, its highest one-day toll in a month, after earlier managing the outbreak better than comparable large European nations.

Spain dropped a 14-day quarantine requirement for British visitors effective Sunday. British travelers provide a big part of Spain’s tourism sector that has been especially hard-hit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government says it will announce next week whether Britain will ease social distancing rules that say people should remain 2 meters (6½ feet) apart.

Business groups are lobbying for the distance to be cut to 1 meter (3 feet) to make it easier to restart the British economy. Britain has Europe’s highest and the world’s third-highest official death toll at more than 42,500.