Spain locks down 200,000 as US gears up for July 4 crowds

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Spain locks down 200,000 as US gears up for July 4 crowds

Saturday, July 04, 2020

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BARCELONA,Spain(AFP)— Spainput 200,000 people back in confinement and England reopened its beloved pubs on Saturday as Europe stuttered its way out of lockdown while the United States braced for large crowds hitting the streets to celebrate Independence Day.

The death toll in Russia surpassed 10,000 and Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who once called the coronavirus a "little flu", diluted facemask rules even though his country's death rate is the world's second-highest and steadily rising.

The announcement fromSpain's northeastern Catalonia region came as Europeans began converging on their favourite holiday spots thanks to an easing of border restrictions put in place to stop the spread.

"We have decided to confine the Segria zone following data confirming a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections," Catalonia's regional president Quim Torra said.

Gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned -- a relatively light lockdown similar to one Britain imposed this week in the city of Leicester.

A virus that has touched almost every country since emerging in China late last year is making an uneven retreat after forcing billions to spend months confined to their homes.

-Australia high-rise shut -

Governments across the world are trying to calibrate their reopenings -- rousing their economies without triggering outbreaks and more lockdowns.

Catalonia's new lockdown came as the modernist Sagrada Familia basilica reopened in Barcelona reopened, just a short distance away.

The dangers of reopening are being felt across the world.

Thousands of residents in high-rise apartments in Melbourne went into lockdown for at least five days as Australia recorded its biggest daily increase of infections in months.

"There are many, many vulnerable people who live in these towers," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The United States also broke a record for new cases for a third day running on Friday as the world's largest economy prepared to celebrate its July 4 holiday under a shadow.

The disease has claimed nearly 130,000 US lives already and new waves of cases that followed an easing of some measures "puts the entire country at risk," according to infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci.

But US President Donald Trump -- at Mount Rushmore for a fireworks celebration with thousands of attendees in close quarters and masks not required -- has so far dismissed the deluge of data showing higher infection rates.

He retweeted a clip on Saturday of crowds bunched shoulder to shoulder and wearing no face coverings watching him and his wife Melania on stage at the South Dakota event.

The tweet described it as an "INCREDIBLE SIGHT".

His predecessor Barack Obama called for Americans to be "safe and smart".

- US beaches close -

At least 14 US states are reportedly seeing their weekly averages hit record highs heading into the holiday weekend.

States such as Florida are recording more cases daily -- around 10,000 -- than European countries such as Italy at their peaks of the crisis.

Miami's usually-crowded South Pointe Beach was closed on Friday, save for patrolling police and a wandering cat.

Beaches in Los Angeles will also be closed over the weekend and Major League Baseball cancelled its 2020 All-Star Game for the first time since World War II.

The United States further failed to make the list of nations whose visitors Britain will not require to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival, days after the EU took a similar step.

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