Virus accelerates across Latin America, India, Pakistan

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NEW DELHI (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic accelerated across Latin America, Russia and the Indian subcontinent on Friday even as curves flattened and reopening was underway in much of Europe, Asia and the United States.

Many governments say they have to shift their focus to saving jobs that are vanishing as quickly as the virus can spread.

The Federal Reserve chairman has estimated that up to one American in four could be jobless, while in China analysts estimate around a third of the urban workforce is unemployed.

The virus is moving through countries ill-equipped to handle the pandemic.

India saw its biggest single-day spike since the pandemic began, and Pakistan and Russiarecorded their highest death tolls. Most new Indian cases are in Bihar, where thousands returned home from jobs in the cities. For over a month, some walked among crowds for hundreds of miles.

Latin America’s two most populous nations — Mexico and Brazil — have reported record counts of new cases and deaths almost daily this week.

Cases were rising and intensive-care units were also swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador — countries that imposed early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.

Brazil reported more than 20,000 deaths and 300,000 confirmed cases Thursday night — the third worst-hit country in the world by official counts. Both numbers may be undercounts due to widespread lack of testing.

President Jair Bolsonaro has questioned the seriousness of the virus and actively campaigned against state governors’ attempts to limit movement and commerce.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador downplayed the threat for weeks as he continued to travel the country after Mexico’s first confirmed case. The country is now reporting more than 400 deaths a day, and new infections still haven’t peaked.

Meanwhile Mexico’s government has shifted its attention to reactivating the economy. Mining, construction and parts of the North American automotive supply chain were allowed to resume operations this week.

Russian health officials registered 150 deaths in 24 hours, for a total of 3,249. Many outside Russia have suggested the country is manipulating its statistics to show a comparatively low death rate. The total confirmed number of cases exceeded 326,000 on Friday.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who himself recovered from coronavirus, said earlier this week that only 27 regions out of 85 are ready to gradually lift their lockdowns.

China announced it would give local governments 2 trillion yuan ($280 billion) to help undo the damage from shutdowns imposed to curb the spread of the virus that first appeared in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has now infected at least 5.1 million people worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The Bank of Japan said it would provide $280 billion in zero-interest, unsecured loans to banks for financing small and medium-size businesses.

European countries also have seen heavy job losses, but government safety-net programs in places like Germany and France are subsidizing the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll.

Tourism, a major income generator for Europe, has become a flashpoint as countries debate whether to quarantine new arrivals this summer for the virus’s two-week maximum incubation period.

Spain’s National Statistics Institute published its tourism report Friday showing columns of zeros for overnight stays, average length of stays and occupancy rates in April. Spain is Europe’s second most popular tourist destination, after France, and an economic recovery without visitors is all but unthinkable.

U.S. cities are authorizing homeless tent encampments, including San Francisco, where about 80 tents are now neatly spaced out on a wide street near city hall as part of a “safe sleeping village” opened last week. The area between the city’s central library and its Asian Art Museum is fenced off to outsiders, monitored around the clock and provides meals, showers, clean water and trash pickup.

The World Bank announced a $500 million program for countries in East Africa battling COVID-19 and deadly flooding along with historic swarms of ravenous desert locusts. The added threat of the pandemic has further imperiled a region where millions lack regular access to food.

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