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SKorea Case Spike Shows Reopening Risk 05/27 06:36


   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- As Mediterranean beaches and Las Vegas casinos 
lay out plans to welcome tourists again, South Korea on Wednesday announced a 
spike in new infections and considered reimposing social distancing 
restrictions, revealing the setbacks ahead for others on the road to reopening.

   The European Union was unveiling a massive stimulus package for the bloc's 
ailing economies later Wednesday, as European nations scrambled to emulate 
South Korea's widely praised strategy of tracing, testing and treating that 
tamed its outbreak and made it a model for the world.

   The EU's economics commissioner, Paulo Gentiloni, called the 750 
billion-euro ($825 billion) recovery fund "a European turning point to face an 
unprecedented crisis."

   Across the Atlantic, the pandemic was claiming new victims as the confirmed 
U.S. death toll approached 100,000  the highest by far in the world  and 
nations from Mexico to Chile to Brazil struggled with surging cases and 
overwhelmed hospitals.

   In South Korea, 40 newly confirmed cases  the biggest daily jump in 
nearly 50 days  raised alarms as millions of children returned to school 

   All but four of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul region, 
where officials are scrambling to stop transmissions linked to nightclubs, 
karaoke rooms and a massive e-commerce warehouse. All were reopened last month 
when social distancing measures were relaxed.

   The country's top infectious disease expert said South Korea may need to 
reimpose social distancing restrictions because it's becoming increasingly 
difficult for health workers to track the spread of COVID-19 amid warmer 
weather and eased attitudes on distancing.

   "We will do our best to trace contacts and implement preventive measures, 
but there's a limit to such efforts," said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South 
Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

   "Young people have a very broad range of activity, so at the point of 
diagnosis, there's already a lot of exposure ... the number of people or 
locations we have to trace are increasing geometrically," he added.

   Seoul and nearby cities had restored some control in recent weeks by 
reclosing thousands of bars, karaoke rooms and other entertainment venues to 
slow the spread of the virus.

   Britain, which has recorded more deaths than any other European country  
over 37,000  was announcing details of its own "test and trace" plans, which 
will send 25,000 workers to find the contacts of anyone who tests positive for 
the virus. Germany said it would extend pandemic-related restrictions on 
interpersonal contact until June 29 as it cautiously lifts lockdown measures.

   As many countries in Asia and Europe make progress in containing the 
pandemic, reversing its devastating economic fallout becomes a top priority.

   The 27-nation EU was unveiling a massive coronavirus recovery plan worth 
hundreds of billions of euros to help countries rebuild. But the bloc remains 
deeply divided over what strings should be attached to the funds, with frugal 
members such as Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden pushing for loans 
rather than grants to form the backbone of the package.

   Cyprus announced Wednesday that tourists would be welcomed back on June 9. 
To make them feel safe, Cyprus said would cover all costs  lodging, food, 
drink and medication  for anyone testing positive for the coronavirus and 
their family members while on vacation in the east Mediterranean island nation.

   But welcoming tourists was far from the concerns of other nations.

   India saw another record single-day jump, reporting 6,387 new cases on 
Wednesday as the government prepared new guidelines for the next phase of a 
2-month-old national lockdown that ends Sunday.

   Mexico's health department reported 501 deaths from the coronavirus  a 
new one-day high.

   A U.S. travel ban took effect for foreigners coming from Brazil, where 
President Jair Bolsonaro has raged against state and local leaders who are 
enforcing stay-at-home measures. Brazil has about 375,000 coronavirus 
infections  second only to the 1.6 million cases in the U.S.  and has 
counted over 23,000 deaths, but many fear its true toll is much higher.

   Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 5.6 million people and killed over 
350,000, including about 170,000 in Europe, according to a tally by Johns 
Hopkins University that health experts say does not show the entire scope of 
the pandemic.

   Flags were flying at half-mast Wednesday on more than 14,000 public 
buildings in Spain as it held the first of 10 days of national mourning for 
coronavirus victims.

   In the U.S., President Donald Trump several months ago likened the 
coronavirus to the flu and dismissed worries that it could lead to so many 
deaths. The administration's leading scientists have since warned that as many 
as 240,000 Americans could die in the country's outbreak.

   The White House said the president was committed to holding a Fourth of July 
celebration in the nation's capital even as local officials warned that the 
region  one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus  will not be ready to 
hold a major event so soon.

   U.S. officials are pushing hard to reopen even as more than a dozen states 
are still seeing increasing new cases.

   Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday night that casinos can reopen 
after a 10-week shutdown on June 4, welcoming tourists to the gambling mecca of 
Las Vegas. Sisolak had planned to make the announcement at a news conference 
but scrapped the live event after he learned he was potentially exposed to the 
virus at a workplace visit.

   Around the globe, eagerness to get life back to normal is offset by 
nervousness about what might come next.

   Greece, which has seen only 173 coronavirus deaths, will let international 
tourists return to its sun-dappled islands beginning June 15.

   While many island residents depend on tourism for their livelihoods, they 
have also taken comfort in their isolation during the pandemic and worry about 
opening up to outsiders.

   "So far things have gone well," said Katerina Vikeli on the island of Milos. 
"Now with the people who will come, what will happen?"

   In New Zealand, which is still banning foreign arrivals, the Ministry of 
Health said there were no COVID-19 patients in the country's hospitals. The 
nation took aggressive, early action to stop transmissions and has reported 
only 21 deaths.

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