A top health official has warned that new Covid-19 cases in the United States could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public fail to take steps to suppress the pandemic.
Infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus taskforce, said the US was headed in the “wrong direction” on the pandemic.
Dr Fauci demanded that Americans wear masks and avoid crowds after lax behaviour propelled new outbreaks.
“I’m very concerned and I’m not satisfied with what’s going on, because we’re going in the wrong direction,” he testified to a Senate committee.
Alarming spikes in new cases in two southern hotspots – Texas and Florida – are driving the daily national total of new cases to over 40,000 per day, and they need to be stamped down quickly to avoid dangerous surges elsewhere in the country, Dr Fauci stressed.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the Senate health and education committee.
“Clearly we are not in total control right now. I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I’m very concerned.”
The dire messaging reinforced concerns about the US ability to rein in a pandemic that has claimed some 126,000 American lives.
It is the world’s hardest-hit nation, with more than 2.6 million infections, and is grappling with how to assure a safe reopening of schools in the coming months.
Dr Fauci said he believed that some US states are “skipping over some of the checkpoints” that assure safe reopenings of business and public spaces.
He also offered a blunt message to the nation’s young adults who have engaged in “dangerous” behaviour including congregating in bars, not wearing masks, and not following social distancing guidelines.
“I think we need to emphasise the responsibility that we have, both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic, that we all have to play a part in that,” Dr Fauci said.
He declined to predict a figure for the expected number of deaths in the US from the pandemic but said it is going to be “disturbing.”
There have been at least 126,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the United States.
Latest figures show the US recorded at least 42,000 coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Four states – Arizona, California, Florida and Texas – account for about half of the new cases.
The latest infections bring the total number of cases in the US to nearly 2.6 million, according to the Baltimore-based institution.
However, the number of daily US deaths continues to decline, with 355 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
Several state governors have been forced to reimpose lockdowns on businesses such as restaurants and bars, though the White House blames the rise in cases to record levels largely on expanded testing and not community spread.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Nicholas Burns, a foreign policy adviser to presumed US Democrat election candidate Joe Biden, said there has been insufficient global coordination in relation to the search for a Covid-19 vaccine.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sarah McInerney, Mr Burns said there should be collaboration on how the vaccine would be distributed equitably among the world’s population.
Australia reimposes virus restrictions
The Australian state of Victoria has introduced the country’s first lockdown measures specifically targeted at local suburban areas after a spike in coronavirus cases in Melbourne, the nation’s second largest city.
The new curbs come even as two other Australian states looked to ease domestic border restrictions with other parts of the country where the virus has largely been contained.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said people in ten affected postcodes around Melbourne must stay home unless they are travelling for work, school, exercise or food for a period of four weeks.
Cafes and restaurants would need to revert to takeaway only, just weeks after they returned to seated diners.
The northern state of Queensland said it would reopen its border to the rest of the country from 10 July while keeping out arrivals from Victoria.
Victoria has reported double-digit daily increases in Covid-19 infections for each of the past 14 days, while most other states report zero or low single-digit increases.
Local lockdown takes effect in Leicester
Britain’s health minister has said the government will change the law to enforce the local lockdown in Leicester.
Tough restrictions have come into force in the city from today following a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
Matt Hancock said Leicester’s seven-day infection rate was 135 cases per 100,000 – three times that of the next highest city.
He said the measures would be kept under review and would not stay in place “any longer than is necessary”, adding: “We’ll review if we can release any of the measures in two weeks.”
The city’s mayor Peter Soulsby said: “These measures are stricter than we anticipated but we understand the need for firm action.
“I am determined that we will make this work and to minimise the time these additional measures need to be in place in the city.”
Mr Hancock said “in some cases” the lockdown would be enforced by police, while legal changes would be made so non-essential retail is no longer open.
When asked how people would be stopped from travelling outside the city, he said: “We’re recommending against all but essential travel both to and from and within Leicester, and as we saw during the peak, the vast majority of people will abide by these rules.
“Of course we will take further action including putting in place laws if that is necessary but I very much hope it won’t be.”