New global cases spark fears of 2nd wave of Covid-19

Govts cautious after some countries that have relaxed lockdowns see rise in cases

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A potential second wave of coronavirus infections has started emerging in several countries that have eased their lockdowns, putting governments around the world on tenterhooks as they chart plans to reopen their badly dented economies.

In China - where the virus has been largely brought under control - a cluster of new cases surfaced in the central city of Wuhan over the weekend, marking its biggest increase since March 11. A 76-day lockdown of the city, where the first coronavirus cases were detected late last year, had been lifted only a month ago.

Another local nest of infections was reported in the north-eastern city of Shulan near the North Korean border, accounting for 17 new infections in China within a day.

South Korea - which has been lauded as a global model in how to curb the virus - saw 35 new infections, the highest number in more than a month, driven by a cluster in a Seoul nightlife district that surfaced just as the country eased its social distancing restrictions.

The capital, as well as neighbouring Gyeonggi province and the nearby city of Incheon, closed all clubs and bars over the weekend.

Despite the new outbreak, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director Jeong Eun-kyeong argued that it was not appropriate to call it a second wave.

"The epidemic is ongoing," she said.

In Germany, new cases were growing again after restrictions were rapidly loosened across the country, with each sick person now infecting more than one other person.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been under mounting pressure from local leaders to restart social life and revive the economy. The authorities are also grappling with a rising number of large anti-lockdown rallies in some cities.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday set out a "cautious road map" to get the country back to work, including advice on wearing homemade face coverings, though his efforts to lift the lockdown had been criticised for a lack of clarity that has caused considerable confusion.

"Our challenge now is to find a way forward that preserves our hard-won gains while easing the burden of lockdown," Mr Johnson said in a statement. "This is a supremely difficult balance."

The government issued a 51-page plan detailing how it would ease restrictions, including rules now limiting people to meeting only one person from outside their household.

Mr Johnson is sandwiched between workers who are fearful that it is not yet safe to resume work, and his party members who are calling for a swifter end to the restrictions to put a check on the damage to the British economy.

Researchers from Imperial College London have warned that the country's death toll, which has already gone past 32,000, could top 100,000 if restrictions were loosened too quickly.

These warnings come amid a cautious loosening of some of the strictest measures that have been in place in Singapore since April 22, when businesses such as cake shops, hairdressing services and traditional Chinese medicine halls were told to close to contain the spread of Covid-19.

These businesses are being allowed to reopen today if they follow strict guidelines and restrictions, such as the use of a digital check-in system called SafeEntry to record all entries and exits, including those of employees and visitors, for digital contact tracing.

Safe distancing measures are also mandatory at these businesses, as the number of cases in Singapore remains high even though community spread is low and work permit holders residing in dormitories still make up most of the Covid-19 cases.

Singapore's Ministry of Health announced 486 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, taking the total count to 23,787.

The steep drop in new cases came following the Health Ministry's decision to halt testing at a laboratory that had registered several "false positive" results.

In one set of results at the lab, none of the 33 people who initially tested positive was later found to have Covid-19.

Meanwhile, a 68-year-old man became the 21st person here to die from complications related to Covid-19.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2020, with the headline New global cases spark fears of 2nd wave of Covid-19. Subscribe