Jul 30, 2020 - World

Coronavirus bounces back where it had been knocked out

A glum harbor ride in Hong Kong.

A glum harbor ride in Hong Kong. Photo: Anthony Wallace. AFP via Getty.

This week has seen a number of worrying headlines from countries initially viewed as major pandemic success stories.

Why it matters: After enormous sacrifices made to prevent or contain widespread outbreaks, countries are grappling with the challenge of preserving that success without daily life, and the economy, grinding to a halt once again.

  • Australia recorded its highest daily death toll, 13, on Thursday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a new lockdown in the state of Victoria — which recorded 723 new cases today — wasn't working as well as hoped, and he acknowledged a virus Australia had nearly stamped out will be around "for some time."
  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam issued a more dire warning — the city is "on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak" that could cause its hospital system to "collapse." Hong Kong is recording upwards of 100 new cases each day.
  • Vietnam had eliminated community transmission altogether for 99 days, and it has still yet to record a single death, but it's seen 39 new cases over the last three days. The government is tightening border controls and ramping up contact tracing.
  • Japan is recording many more cases now than during its first wave in March and April. The government finds itself in the awkward position of urging caution to limit the spread while promoting domestic travel to boost the economy.

Germany has been a model for the rest of Europe, but the head of the national public health agency now says Germans have become "negligent," causing a rise in cases.

  • Spain and Belgium, which were both hit very hard but turned a corner after imposing strict lockdowns in the spring, are now recording case levels not seen since May.
  • Catalonia is back under curfew, with nearly 7,000 cases recorded there just last week.
  • Belgium has halted its reopening process and imposed new local restrictions in Antwerp. “Our aim is clear — avoid another full lockdown,” Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said.

Among the factors blamed by leaders and public health experts are the abandonment of social distancing, particularly among younger people, the reopening of bars and the loosening of travel restrictions.

What to watch: We are unlikely to re-enter a period in which most of the world is living under lockdown. Instead, we're seeing stalled reopening plans and targeted lockdowns, as countries hope the worst is behind them but prepare for the possibility it isn't.

Go deeper: Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro says he tested negative for coronavirus

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