Nations around the world and U.S. states struggled mightily Tuesday to contain a surge of coronavirus infections as lockdowns eased.
Germany slapped new restrictions on a region where hundreds were infected at a slaughterhouse and a top U.S. expert headed to Capitol Hill at a fraught moment in the U.S. battle against the virus.
Rapid increases in cases across the U.S. South and West are raising fears that progress against the virus is slipping away, as states reopen and many Americans resist wearing masks for political reasons and refuse to limit contacts to social-distancing bubbles. The United States has the most infections and deaths by far in the world, with 2.3 million cases and over 120,000 confirmed virus-related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, was testifying before a House committee just days after President Donald Trump told an Oklahoma rally that he had asked officials to slow down testing because too many positive cases were turning up. Trump’s office later claimed he was joking.
In Germany, more than 1,550 people have tested positive for coronavirus at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck and thousands more workers and family members have been put under a quarantine to try to halt the outbreak.
On Tuesday, North Rhine-Westphalia state Gov. Armin Laschet said people in Guetersloh and parts of a neighboring county will now face the same restrictions that Germany saw in March and April, including curbs on social gatherings and bar closings.
“The purpose is to calm the situation, to expand testing to establish whether or not the virus has spread beyond the employees of Toennies,” Laschet said.
Laschet expressed frustration at the company’s handling of the outbreak, saying authorities had to order Toennies to release the names of its employees.
“The readiness to cooperate could have been greater,” he said.
Union officials have blamed poor working and living conditions that migrant workers faced under a loosely regulated sub-contractor.
Across the Channel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced a major rollback of lockdown measures that will let millions in England back into pubs, cinemas, churches and hair salons starting July 4. The move came amid strong pressure from businesses to ease social distancing rules.
Although gyms, pools, spas and tattoo parlors will remain shut, Johnson told lawmakers that “our long national hibernation” was coming to an end.