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Britain's COVID-19 cases spike as restrictions ease

By
Allen Cone
People stand in line at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Camden Market, in London, England, on Saturday. The British government plans to lift lockdown restrictions July 19. Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE
People stand in line at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Camden Market, in London, England, on Saturday. The British government plans to lift lockdown restrictions July 19. Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE

July 18 (UPI) -- Britain is dealing with a contrasting coronavirus situation: surging cases despite nearly 70% of its population receiving at least one vaccine dose and plans to ease restrictions, including in England on Monday. In addition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with coronavirus last year, is self-isolating after becoming exposed to his infected health secretary.

In the past week, infections in Britain increased by 313,647 or 44%, including 54,674 Saturday, the highest since January and a record 67,803. Sunday's increase was 48,161. Fatalities also rose 39%, adding 283 in one week, including 41 Saturday then 25 Sunday, but far off the record 1,823 on Jan. 20.

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Worldwide, cases rose 15% and deaths are up 0.1% as Britain has contributed to the spike along with the United States and Indonesia. On Sunday, tennis player Coco Gauff, 17, said she will not represent Team USA in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo after testing positive for COVID-19.

One and a half years after the virus originated in Mainland China, the death toll has risen to 4,105,555 and cases are at 191,200,047 by the end of Sunday, according to tracking by Worldometers.info.

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The United States is the world leader in total deaths at 624,746 and cases at 34,963,907. Brazil is second in fatalities with 542,262 and India third with 413,609. India is second in cases at 31,106,965, ahead of Brazil with 19,376,574.

Britain ranks seventh in the world each in deaths with 128,708 and cases with 5,433,939.

The situation is worsening in the kingdom though 69.2% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, including the first person in the world in December. The United States has administered at least one dose to 56% of its population with Brazil at 43.9%. China doesn't report dose percentages but has enough for 51.3% of the world-high 1.5 billion people.

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India is a dominant manufacturer of vaccines worldwide, but the nation has inoculated only 23.3% of its population with at least one dose.

Worldwide, a total of 3.6 billion shots have been given in a population of 7.9 billion with a two-dose regimen required for most brands, according to tracking by Bloomberg.

Europe and North America have administered 78 doses administered per 100 people, followed by South America at 52, Asia at 49, Oceania at 28 and Africa at 4.3, according to tracking by The New York Times.

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Britain's prime minister was vaccinated in March. On Sunday, Johnson announced he will be going into self-isolation along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Robert Jenrick. Originally, they said they would not be in quarantine because they are part of a pilot testing program.

Monday is known as "freedom day" when most of the restrictions will be lifted, in England as well as Scotland and Wales. Social-distancing rules in England will end, though guidelines advise face masks should still be worn in enclosed spaces and on public transport, and pubs and bars should be table service only.

But Dr. John Edmunds, who is advising the government, said without the restrictions, like when the first two waves of the pandemic were brought under control, cases will surge to 100,000 per day in a few weeks.

"I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and drawn out," Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told the Today program. "My hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn.

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"We started easing restrictions before everybody was vaccinated. That is going to lead to infections in the unvaccinated people -- primarily, in this instance, the younger individuals."

Britain, like other nations, has been dramatically affected by the Delta variant, which is highly contagious and originated in India.

Europe's cases grew by 35% for a current total of 49,799,659 and deaths by 4% at 1,119,832.

Notably, Russia gained 1% in cases with 174,800 infections, second behind Britain, and 7% in deaths, 5,417, the most on the continent.

In Europe, four nations are in the top 10 for most deaths. Besides Britain, Russia is sixth with 148,419, Italy eighth with 127,876 and France 10th with 111,472. Also, Germany is 12th with 91,896, Spain 14th with 81,096, Poland 15th with 75,215 and Ukraine 18th with 52,726.

Russia reported 764 deaths Sunday, two days after a record 799. Cases were 25,018 compared with the record 29,935 in December.

Also Sunday, other nations added single-digits: Italy three, France five, Germany two, Ukraine eight, Poland three and Bulgaria five. Spain doesn't release data on the weekend.

Despite restrictions, including an official ban on mass gatherings, many Russians are not following the rules.

The nation has vaccinated only 20.4% of its population with one dose and 10.2% are fully vaccinated as surveys from independent pollsters show mistrust of the government in refusing to get the doses.

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"Why would I get vaccinated?" one man with fairly typical views told CBS News. "I'm a healthy man and never got sick, so I don't need it... If I get sick then I get sick, what's the difference? That's my personal choice."

Besides the Sputnik V vaccine, there are two others made in Russia.

Certain workers are required to get the shots.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain had vaccinated 62.5% with at least one dose, Italy 60.2%, Germany 59.3%, France 57.7%, Poland 46.6% and Ukraine 9.6%.

European nations have been reopening their borders.

On July 1, the European Union launched a Digital Covid Certificate, which allows for free movement of travelers between its countries. The 27-nation EU has recommended the United States among countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted. Also included is Saudi Arabia despite a spike in cases and deaths.

The 29 nations in Europe's Schengen area, as well as those in Britain and Ireland, remain barred from traveling to the United States unless they are a U.S. citizen or they spend 14 days before arrival in a country that is not on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's prohibited list.

Russia has resumed regular air travel including to the United States and China.

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President Joe Biden, during a news conference Thursday in the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said about lifting the ban to Europe: "It's in process now. I'm waiting to hear from our folks, our COVID team, as to when that should be done."

France's 12,532 cases were the most in two months.

Asia leads the continents with 59,035,126 cases, gaining 19% with deaths up 3% and now is at 842,946 in fourth behind No. 1 Europe, No. 2 South America and No. 3 North America.

Three Asian nations are in the top 20 for most deaths. Besides India, Iran is 13th place with 87,161, dropping behind Germany in the past week, and Indonesia 16th at 73,582.

Indonesia's deaths spiked 21%, including a record 1,205 Friday then 1,093 Sunday, with cases up 44% with 44,721 Sunday after a record 56,757 Thursday. Until mid-June, the most infections were 14,226 and deaths were 476 in January.

Indonesia has inoculated only 15.5% of its population with at least one dose.

The Asian nation's surge has been fueled by the Delta variant and a "dramatic increase in confirmed cases" after the festive holidays, Indonesia's Health Minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, said earlier this month.

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Indonesia entered a lockdown on July 10, when there were more than 30,000 new cases each day. Only 23.3 million tests have been conducted in a nation with a population of 276.5 million.

"Without appropriate testing, many provinces are unable to isolate confirmed cases on time," the World Health Organization said in a situation report earlier this month.

In India, coronavirus has been trending down from a world record of 4,529 deaths and world cases mark of 414,188.

In the past week, infections are down 8% and fatalities dropped 32%.

On Sunday, India reported 41,157 deaths and 518 fatalities as vaccination and testing climbed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week described the handling of the second wave as "unprecedented," though coronavirus is the "biggest problem the world is facing in 100 years."

In Japan, the Summer Olympics are scheduled to take place on Friday with the host city Tokyo under a state of emergency and no spectators allowed, including family members. Fans also won't be allowed in many other venues outside Tokyo.

The first two athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Village, tested positive. They are two soccer players and an official, according to the South African Football Association on Sunday.

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The team left South Africa Tuesday and arrived in Tokyo the following day when they reported negative test results. The whole team is now under quarantine "until cleared to train," according to the South African Football Association.

The first case in the village was reported Saturday: an individual, not believed to be an athlete, tested positive.

More than 15,000 Olympic individuals had entered Japan as of Friday, according to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.

Athletes are not required to be vaccinated.

Japan has inoculated only 32.3% of its population. The nation is 37th with 15,062 deaths, including three Sunday with a record 216 two months ago. Cases are 3,103 with a record of 7,882.

South Korea has vaccinated 31% of its population. The nation has 2,057 deaths, including two more Sunday, a rise of 1,451 cases, four days after a record 1,615.

Restrictions in the greater Seoul area of South Korea remain in place and they will be expanded to other regions.

The pandemic began in late 2019 in Mainland China, but the nation with the world's largest population of 1.5 billion, has reported only a few deaths in the past 12 months and stands in 67th at 4,636 behind Costa Rica with 4,874. China added three cases Sunday and had administered more than 1.4 billion doses, the most in the world and dwarfing India with nearly 405 million and the United States with more than 336 million, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins.

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Turkey is sixth in the world for cases at 5,529,719 and 19th in deaths at 50,554, including 66 on Sunday.

Coronavirus also is surging in Thailand, 26% in cases over the past week with a record 11,397 Sunday and 30% deaths with 101 most recently for a total of 3,341.

Israel, which is considered part of Asia, has fully vaccinated 63.4% of its population. Its death toll is 6,449 with 12 reported in a week and three Sunday.

North America's totals are 929056 deaths, up 7% over seven days, and 41,395,504 cases with an increase of 27%.

In one week, U.S. cases were up 27% to 203,082 and deaths rose 1,722 at an increase of 8%, according to Worldometers.info. On Saturday, 114 deaths and 23,708 cases were reported though a majority of states don't report data. Florida, which only reports data once a week, has dominated cases with 20% of the U.S. total with 45,449 over seven days.

Mexico's deaths are up 1%, with 225 Sunday and fourth in the world at 236,240. Deaths are way down in Mexico from a one-day record of 1,803. The nation's cases are up 38%, ranking 16th in cases at 2,654,699 with 12,631 most recently.

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Canada's cases are down 26% in one week and deaths also dropped 17%. Canada's record is 257 on Dec. 29 with a total of 26,499 in 25th, including seven Sunday. Cases reported were 259, down from the record of 11,383 on Jan. 3.

Mexico's vaccination rate is 29.2%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people. And Canada has risen to 69.7% and leading the United States by near 14 percentage points after lagging by several points for months.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel and fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.

Canada, Mexico and the United States have mutual travel bans for non-essential travel through July 21. It began one year ago in March.

Mexico City will remain medium risk yellow for at least the next week on the federal government's coronavirus stoplight map. Neighboring Mexico state will drop to yellow from low risk green. Yucatan, which includes Cancun and Cozumel, is orange light, the second highest of the four color levels.

In South America, deaths decreased 9% and cases dropped 12%.

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South America has four nations in the top 20 for most deaths. Besides Brazil, Peru is fifth with 195,146, Colombia ninth with 116,307 and Argentina 11th with 101,549.

Overall, South America has 1,054,008 deaths and 34,5595,176 cases.

Brazil's fatalities decreased 4% and cases are down 10%. The nation set a record 114,139 cases three weeks ago with 34,126 most recently. The deaths record is 4,211 in January.

Chile has the highest vaccination rate on the continent at 69.6% and is 20th in deaths worldwide with 34,514 and 111 Sunday, with Argentina 48.2%, Colombia at 28.9% and Peru 19.6%.

Brazil is struggling to fully vaccinate its residents, with about 3.1 million seeking their second shot, according to researchers tracking vaccinations.

"There is this drive to speed up vaccination with the first dose," Dr. Bahia, one of the researchers tracking immunizations, said in a report by the BBC. "And the second dose has ended up on the backburner."

Unlike other nations, Brazil has held back supplies for second doses.

Colombia reported 476 deaths Sunday, Argentina added 115 and Peru gained 99.

"Growing violence, instability and crowded shelters could become active hotspots for COVID transmission," Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, the WHO's regional bureau for the Americas, said last week. "Limited supplies and violence are also hindering the ability of health workers to safely care for patients in need. In some cases, patients may be avoiding seeking to due to safety concerns."

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At the other extreme, geographically and in terms of the pandemic, Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has 1,369 deaths with an increase of 35%, or 46, in one week and cases are 89258, up 7,904 to 59%.

New Zealand's deaths remain at 26 with the last one reported on Feb. 16 and Australia's toll increased to 914, with one reported Sunday and three in a week.

New Zealand reported 11 cases Sunday, tallying 47 in one week, for a total of 2,814, and Australia was up 129, which is 807 in a week, for 31,899.

Australia has vaccinated 26.9% of its population. New Zealand has administered first doses to 17% of its population.

The Australian state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, is in a lockdown from Thursday through Tuesday after New South Wales, which includes Sydney, is in a five-week lockdown that will last at least through the end of the month. On Sunday, New South Wales reported 105 local cases and one death and 16 local infections.

The outbreak also has been surging in Fiji with 98 total deaths, compared with 55 one week ago and four by May 3. Cases have climbed from 121 on May 3 to 16,471, including a record 1,180 Saturday, one day after the previous mark of 1,405. On Sunday, it reported 1,043 cases and 13 deaths.

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Africa's deaths grew 13% in one week to 158329 and weekly case change dropped 0.6% to 6,2284,603.

South Africa's 99,469 cases accounted for 35% of the continent's 283,546 infections. Deaths are up 5%, and account for 41% of the continent's with 2,570. South Africa is in 17th place with 66,859 deaths, including 183 Sunday. And cases rose 11,215.

In the past week, Tunisia moved past Egypt for the second-most cases in Africa, 17,354 vs. 16,439 Tunisia gained 140 Saturday and 173 Sunday.

A more contagious variant originated in South Africa, which has vaccinated 7.4% of its population with at least one shot.

"Deaths have climbed steeply for the past five weeks," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a United Nations news release. "This is a clear warning sign that hospitals in the most impacted countries are reaching a breaking point."

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