More than two dozen new coronavirus cases in China and the first New Zealand infections in almost a month on Tuesday underlined the immense challenges still ahead in containing the deadly pandemic, even as some EU nations reopened their borders to fellow Europeans. A second global wave of coronavirus is nigh upon the world as these two countries, which hitherto claimed to have defeated the virus, have reported new cases amongst their population.
More than eight million people have now been infected with the virus worldwide since it first emerged in China late last year — with more than 435,000 deaths — and the tolls are still surging in Latin America and South Asia.
Caseloads have declined across Europe, however, and governments are keen to ease lockdowns that have saved lives but devastated economies — despite experts warning that restrictions will be required until a vaccine or effective treatment is developed.
Second global wave of coronavirus: China reports 27 new infections
The latest reminder of the threat came on Tuesday from China, which had largely brought its outbreak under control, as 27 new infections were reported in Beijing, where a new cluster linked to a wholesale food market has sparked mass testing and neighbourhood lockdowns.
“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,” Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian warned, as the number of confirmed infections soared to 106.
The city administration has moved to completely lock down areas of Beijing before the contagion increases to infect the whole city once again. Despite stringent measures to control the pandemic, China seems helpless in face of a resurgence of cases that has been detected in Beijing.
New Zealand reports first cases in 25 days
New Zealand reported its first new cases of coronavirus in almost a month on Tuesday when two recent arrivals from Britain tested positive after being released early from quarantine to visit a dying relative.
The South Pacific nation, which has recorded only 22 deaths among a population of five million, declared last week it had eliminated community COVID-19 transmission — allowing it to relax social distancing measures and rely on strict border controls.
One of the two women — who travelled from Britain via Doha and Brisbane — showed mild symptoms after landing at Auckland airport on June 7, but her symptoms were ascribed to a pre-existing condition, local media reported.
Wow … New Zealand is kicking Corona’s ass! pic.twitter.com/RdUZFId4lE
— Matt Eastwood (@matteastwood) May 2, 2020
The pair were allowed to leave two-week isolation early on June 13 on compassionate grounds and drove by car to Wellington, making contact with no one on the way, health department director-general Ashley Bloomfield said.
Read more: How New Zealand beat Coronavirus?
He said they tested positive after arriving in Wellington and were in isolation, along with the only relative they had contact with in the capital.
Bloomfield said he was not fearful the cases could lead to a fresh outbreak because systems were in place to trace their movements.
“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get, but it’s also something we expected and have planned for,” he told reporters.
He said that as a result of the case rules had been tightened to ensure people were only allowed out of quarantine on compassionate grounds after testing negative.
New Zealand’s borders are open only to returning Kiwis and their families, besides some exceptions for business and compassionate grounds.
Travellers must undergo two weeks mandatory quarantine, unless granted special permission.
Second global wave of coronavirus as world struggles with first outbreak
While these cases have caused concern about the possibility of a full-blown resurgence in countries that have suppressed their outbreaks, the disease is gaining a worrying momentum in other regions with massive populations.
Known infections in India have crossed 330,000, and authorities already stretched by the COVID-19 outbreak are bracing for the monsoon season, which causes outbreaks of illness such as dengue fever and malaria every year.
With more than three decades as a doctor in India’s chronically underfunded public healthcare system, Vidya Thakur — medical superintendent at Mumbai’s Rajawadi Hospital — is used to managing “heavy burdens”.
But now, she says, “COVID-19 has left us helpless… and the monsoon will make things even more difficult.”
In Latin America, countries are struggling to contain the disease while trying to ease the crushing economic blow dealt by widespread lockdowns and social distancing measures.
Peru reported its economy shrank by more than 40 percent year-on-year in April, while Chile extended its state of emergency by three months as it struggles with a controversy over how it is counting COVID-19 deaths.
In the United States, the world’s worst-hit nation, there have been flare-ups in some states.
But President Donald Trump’s administration insists there will be no new economic shutdown even if a second wave hits.
A return to normal still looks distant, however, with the Oscars postponed by two months, the latest casualty of an already interrupted sports and entertainment calendar.
Europe reopens borders despite fears of second global wave of coronavirus
After a gradual drop in new cases, European nations including Belgium, France, Germany and Greece lifted border restrictions hoping to boost tourism and travel over the summer months.
In Spain, a planeload of German tourists flew to the Balearic islands in an experimental pilot project.
In Brussels, Joy Kamel, a student travelling to join her father in France, waited to board a flight to Marseille.
“It’s been five months since I’ve seen him,” she told AFP. “I’m in the middle of exams, but since I’m taking them online, I might as well take advantage.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments bar below.