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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

Go deeper

Nov 5, 2020 - Health

U.S. exceeds 100,000 new COVID-19 cases for first time

Data: Covid Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. reported 103,087 new daily coronavirus infections on Wednesday, setting a single-day record for cases, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Why it matters: This is the first time the U.S. has reported over 100,000 new cases in a single day — a reminder of the high stakes of the election as votes continue to be tabulated.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 4, 2020 - World

Italy imposes regional lockdown as coronavirus cases spike

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (c) made the call. Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Much of Italy will be placed under a strict lockdown as of Friday in the most drastic steps the country has taken to fight the coronavirus since it led the world into lockdown nearly eight months ago.

The big picture: Italy managed to keep the spread of the virus largely under control for months after a brutal first wave. But like much of Europe, it's currently recording unprecedented daily case counts and scrambling to avoid a return to overcrowded hospitals and climbing death tolls in the coming weeks.

Coronavirus cases are rising in 35 states

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections surged by roughly 20% over the past week as cases continued to climb in every region of the country.

Why it matters: All signs indicate that the pandemic will keep getting worse throughout the winter, making it harder and harder to eventually control — even if there's a new president, and even with a vaccine.