More than two dozen new coronavirus cases in China and the first New Zealand infections in almost a month on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, underlined the immense challenges still ahead in containing the deadly pandemic, even as some EU nations reopened their borders to fellow Europeans.
More than eight million people have now been infected with the virus worldwide since it first emerged in China late last year 2019 — 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.
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.
And New Zealand reported its first cases in almost a month — two recent arrivals from Britain — prompting authorities to start tracing their movements.
The South Pacific nation had declared last week that it had ended community transmission of the virus.
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.
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.