Sunday, January 17, 2021

New COVID-19 Outbreaks in Germany, S Korea show the risks in easing up

South Korea’s capital closed down more than 2,100 bars and other nightspots Saturday because of a new cluster of coronavirus infections, Germany scrambled to contain fresh outbreaks at slaughterhouses, and Italian authorities worried that people were getting too friendly at cocktail hour during the country’s first weekend of eased restrictions.
The new outbreaks — and the fears of a second wave of contagion — underscored the dangers authorities face as they try to reopen their economies.
Around the world, the US and other hard-hit countries are wrestling with how to ease curbs on business and public activity without causing the virus to come surging back.
Elsewhere, Belarus, which has not locked down despite increasing case numbers, saw tens of thousands of people turn out to mark Victory Day, the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945. That was in contrast to Russia, which skipped the usual grand parade in Red Square.
Germany and South Korea have both carried out extensive testing and contact tracing and have been hailed for avoiding the mass deaths that have overwhelmed other countries. But even there, authorities have struggled with finding the balance between saving lives and saving jobs.
In South Korea, where a decline in new cases had prompted the Government to loosen up, Seoul shut down thousands of nightclubs, hostess bars and discos after dozens of infections were linked to clubgoers who went out last weekend as the country relaxed its social-distancing guidelines.
Many of the infections were linked to a 29-year-old man who visited three nightclubs before testing positive. Mayor Park Won-soon said health workers were trying to contact some 1,940 people who had been at the three clubs and other places nearby.
The mayor said gains made against the virus are now threatened “because of a few careless people”.
Health officials in Germany faced outbreaks at three slaughterhouses in what was seen as a test of the Government’s strategy for dealing with any resurgence of the virus as the restrictions are eased. At one slaughterhouse, in Coesfeld, 180 workers tested positive for the virus.
Germany’s NGG union, which represents food industry workers, said the outbreaks were the result of “a sick system”. Freddy Adjan, a senior union official, said the meat industry has for years been relying on “dubious subcontractors” that exploit workers.
US authorities are likewise watching for a second wave, more than two weeks after states began gradually reopening, with Georgia largely leading the way.
Elsewhere, Pakistan allowed shops, factories, construction sites and some other businesses to reopen Saturday, while more than 1,600 new cases and 24 deaths were reported. Prime Minister Imran Khan said the Government is rolling back curbs because it can’t support millions of families that depend on daily wages.
The Government warned that controls will be reimposed if the public fails to follow social-distancing guidelines.
Others imposed new restrictions: Kuwait, in the Middle East, announced a lockdown from Sunday through May 30.
In Spain, health authorities will allow regions that have demonstrated their hospitals are prepared to handle a second wave of infections to scale back their lockdowns.
The outbreak forced Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark Victory Day without the usual pomp of a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
This year’s observance had been expected to be especially large because it is the 75th anniversary. Instead, Putin laid flowers at the tomb of the unknown soldier, and a show of military might was limited to a flyover of 75 warplanes and helicopters.
Belarus, though, held a military parade in front of big crowds in the capital, Minsk, despite sharply rising coronavirus infections. Belarus has not imposed restrictions to halt the virus’ spread, and authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed concerns about it as a “psychosis”.

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