Virus spoils July 4 celebrations in US

by Cyril Julien with Dmitry Zaks in London

A surge in coronavirus cases sapped the fun out of July 4 celebrations in the United States as the pandemic also accelerated through neighboring Mexico, the rest of Latin America and South Africa.

Even Europe, which has largely been celebrating reopening, saw some setbacks, with authorities placing 200,000 people back under lockdown in Spain after a spike in infections that underlined how easily hard-won progress can be reversed.

The United States remains by far the world’s hardest-hit country, logging a further 43,000 cases Saturday that brought its total number of infections to more than 2.8 million, with nearly 130,000 deaths.

The spiraling caseload cast a pall over traditional Independence Day celebrations, with beaches closed and the National Mall in Washington, usually crowded with spectators ready for fireworks, near deserted.

Main Street parades were canceled, boisterous backyard barbecues scaled down and family reunions put off.

Despite the somber mood, President Donald Trump insisted the end was in sight in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking from the White House lawn, Trump addressed a crowd that included frontline health workers battling the virus.

He accused China — where the outbreak originated late last year — of a cover-up that allowed the illness to race across the globe, but hailed American “scientific brilliance.”

“We’ll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year,” he said.

If so, it will be in high demand. As the virus continues its relentless march around the world, Latin America is also grappling with rising cases.

Mexico’s toll crossed 30,000 on Saturday, propelling it past France to become the fifth-hardest-hit country in the world.

And Brazil, which has defiantly opened bars and restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, notched up nearly 40,000 new cases and more than a thousand deaths, keeping it in second place behind the US in the bleak global rankings.

Across the Atlantic, South Africa reported more than 10,000 new infections Saturday, its highest ever daily jump. Africa’s most economically developed country now has the greatest number of cases on the continent. (AFP)

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