Rising virus totals force rethink of bars, schools, tourism
MITO, Japan (AP) — Bars may be off the menu and many schools look set to remain closed for months to come as the new coronavirus causes more illness and death in many countries and the U.S. South and West.
India's record daily increase of nearly 32,7000 cases pushed its total close to 1 million and led authorities to reimpose a three-day lockdown and night curfew in the popular western beach state of Goa, two weeks after it was reopened to tourists.
The top elected official in the popular backpacking destination, Pramod Sawant, said people were flouting social distancing norms. Nearly 40,000 people were fined about $1.30 each in the past two weeks for not wearing face masks.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he might have to rethink plans for a domestic tourism campaign to help offset losses from keeping borders closed to foreign visitors. Tokyo's new cases have been rising by hundreds daily.
“We are looking at the situation with a high level of nervousness,” Abe said of his “Go To" campaign offering discounts for traveling within Japan which was set to start next week.
As is true of many places, Tokyo's nightlife — bars, clubs, cabarets and karaoke parlors — has been seen as a weak link in efforts to contain the virus. But the most recent data show the illness also spreading in offices and among older Japanese, in nursery schools and senior facilities, undoing earlier progress.
The Japanese government is constrained by how far it can restrict businesses and public activities and it never imposed a full lockdown. Officials have struggled over the trade-off between curbing the spread of the virus and protecting the ailing economy.
In Australia, where some have advocated a policy of virus eradication rather than suppression, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out the strategy as costly, risky and a potential illusion.
“You can’t mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal,” he said.
After initially suppressing the pandemic, Australia saw the virus regain a foothold with breaches of controls in Melbourne hotel quarantines just as the nation was lifting its lockdown restrictions. The city has been shut down again, for six weeks, as 317 new cases were added Thursday to the tally in Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state.
Australia's smaller neighbor, New Zealand, has had success with its goal of eradication, having had no community-spread cases in 76 days. All of its 27 active cases are people in quarantine after returning from foreign travel.
With its borders closed to foreigners, New Zealand has resumed most activities. But for most countries a return to normalcy appears further off than many envisioned just weeks ago.
Governors in several U.S. states ordered requirements for masks and imposed further limits on operations of bars and restaurants as the number of cases in the U.S. surged. California, Arizona, Texas and Florida together reported about 36,000 new cases on Wednesday.
The four states reported a total of more than 450 new deaths. In Alabama, which reported a one-day high of 40 deaths, officials said the state will begin requiring face masks.
The mayor of Los Angeles declared the nation's second-largest city is on the verge of a shutdown of all but essential businesses and more school districts made plans to start the fall semester without on-site instruction.
San Francisco and Sacramento joined Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and other districts in announcing public school students will not return to classrooms but stick with digital learning when the new term begins because of the spreading virus and testing delays.
In Texas, which again set a record for confirmed new cases, with nearly 10,800, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has increasingly emphasized face coverings as the way to avoid another lockdown.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock required masks at indoor public spaces and at larger outdoor gatherings in counties where four or more people are known to have COVID-19. The Democrat's order came as the state reported a record number of new confirmed cases.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appealed in a televised address to Ohioans to make “once-in-a-hundred year sacrifices” to protect their neighbors — whether or not the government requires them to do so.
Alluding to the dire death tolls of the Spanish flu pandemic and the Vietnam War, he urged them to wear face coverings at all times while in public, but issued no mandate.
“Friends, this is not a drill. It certainly is not any hoax. This is not a dress rehearsal,” he said.
Businesses have been tightening precautions, with Walmart becoming the largest U.S. retailer to require customers to wear face coverings at all of its Sam’s Club and namesake stores. In Las Vegas, some casinos began limiting smoking to keep customers from removing the masks they are required to wear.
Showing that there can be a way forward, China became the first economy to resume growing since the pandemic began in its central city of Wuhan. It reported an unexpectedly strong 3.2% expansion in the latest quarter after anti-virus lockdowns were lifted and factories and stores reopened.
The 6.8% contraction in January-March was the countries worst downturn since at least the mid-1960s.
Economists say China is likely to recover faster than some other major economies due to the ruling Communist Party’s decision to impose the most intensive anti-disease measures in history. Those cut off most access to cities with a total of 60 million people and suspended trade and travel — steps later imitated by some Asian and European governments as the virus spread.
Few other countries have shown the will to impose such stringent measures to keep the virus at bay.
More than than 13.5 million people have been infected worldwide and over 580,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are thought to be far higher for a number of reasons, including limited testing.
Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.