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Fears virus could spread after South America reopening and US unrest

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South American countries at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic are choosing to reopen even as case numbers rise, ignoring the example set by Europe nations who waited for the worst to pass.

Meanwhile in the US, there are concerns that widespread protests over the death of George Floyd could cause new outbreaks in a nation where the virus has disproportionately affected ethnic minorities.

A new estimate by the US congressional budget office warned that the damage to the world’s largest economy could amount to nearly 16 trillion dollars (£12.8 trillion) over the next decade if congress does not work to mitigate the fallout.

Experts are concerned about what is happening in South America. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organisation’s emergencies programme, said: “Clearly the situation in many South American countries is far from stable.

“There is a rapid increase in cases, and those systems are coming under increasing pressure.”

His warning came as some of Brazil’s hardest-hit cities, including the jungle metropolis Manaus and coastal Rio de Janeiro, are starting to allow more activity.

Brazil has reported more than 526,000 cases of the virus, second only to the 1.8 million reported by the US.

Elsewhere in the region, Bolivia’s government has authorised reopening most of the country, while Venezuela has unwound restrictions. Ecuador’s airports are resuming flights and shoppers are returning to some of Colombia’s malls.

Further north in Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador kicked off the nation’s return to a “new normal” Monday with his first road trip in two months as the nation began to gradually ease some of its virus restrictions.

Mr Lopez Obrador said he is taking all necessary precautions, having driven the 1,000 miles from Mexico City over the weekend rather than flying, on a trip to promote construction of the Mayan Train, one of his signature infrastructure projects.

In South Korea, new cases rose on Tuesday. Areas around Seoul moved to curb large gatherings and officials urged churchgoers and some health care workers to avoid crowds.

In the US, at least a quarter of Covid-19 deaths were among nursing home residents, a new report said.

The report, prepared for state governors, said nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus – a number that is only partial and likely to go higher.

The Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 60,000 cases of coronavirus illness among nursing home residents.

The data was based on reports received from about 80% of the nation’s 15,400 nursing homes as of May 24. But some states with high rates of nursing home deaths appeared to have low levels of response to the survey, intended as a first step toward developing policy changes.

More than 6.2 million infections have been reported worldwide, with more than 375,000 people dying, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The true death toll is believed to be significantly higher, since many died without ever being tested.

In the US, the protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have shaken cities from New York to Los Angeles, with many of the demonstrators not wearing masks.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo expressed concern that the protests in New York City could endanger the long, hard fight to contain the pandemic in a worldwide hot spot.

You turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done,” Mr Cuomo said. “We have to take a minute and ask ourselves: ‘What are we doing here?’”

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