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South America named virus epicenter as Trump seeks US reopening

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South America named virus epicenter as Trump seeks US reopening

South America is "a new epicenter" of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization has declared, as US President Donald Trump intensified his push to reopen the reeling American economy. Brazil led the surge across South America, its death toll passing 21,000 on Friday from 330,000 infections, the third highest caseload of any country in a pandemic that has infected 5.2 million globally and killed more than 338,000. China reported more positive figures on Saturday, recording no new infections for the first time since it began reporting its data in January.

However, there are signs that other Asian countries are facing an upsurge — India registering jumps of more than 5,000 cases each day for much of the past week, although from a much lower base than the hardest-hit countries in Europe and the Americas.

Experts have hailed the impact of lockdown measures for slowing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, but Trump has long prioritised the needs of the economy over public health concerns — renewing his attacks on Friday on local officials for refusing to allow businesses to reopen.

His concerns about the economy were thrown into stark relief late on Friday when car-rental giant Hertz filed for bankruptcy for its North American operations — yet another sign of the virus and lockdown laying waste to the US economy, which has already shed almost 40 million jobs.

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In Europe, where rates of infections and deaths are stabilizing in many countries, governments are moving away from enforced national lockdowns towards advisory measures involving social distancing.

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"In a sense, South America has become a new epicenter for the disease," […]

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