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Tourists facing restrictions amid fears of new virus spikes

Tourists facing restrictions amid fears of new virus spikes

MADRID — From the palm-fringed beaches of southern India to the bar-lined streets of a Spanish island and the rolling hills of Ireland, restaurants, pubs, and clubs are emerging as front lines in efforts to prevent the re-emergence of the coronavirus.

With Europe’s summer vacation season kicking into high gear for millions weary of months of lockdown, scenes of drunken British and German tourists on Spain’s Mallorca island ignoring social distancing rules and reports of American visitors flouting quarantine measures in Ireland are raising fears of a resurgence of infections in countries that have battled for months to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Germany’s foreign minister condemned the rowdy tourists for imperiling hard-won gains in efforts to contain the virus.

“We just recently managed to open the borders again in Europe. We cannot risk this by reckless behavior,” Heiko Maas told Funke Media Group on Thursday. “Otherwise, new measures will be inevitable.”

In a move designed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus and shake off the region’s reputation as a party hub, regional authorities in the Balearic Islands ordered the closure from Thursday of all establishments along Mallorca’s “Beer St.” and “Ham St.”, as the popular party areas near the beach of Palma de Mallorca are known, and another boulevard in nearby Magaluf.

Images that have gone viral on social media of tourists packing Mallorca streets were in stark contrast to a solemn commemoration service Thursday morning in Madrid, where relatives of about 100 COVID-19 victims sat, socially distanced, with representatives of health workers and other vital professions and with Spain’s king and queen to pay tribute to the dead and those fighting the pandemic.

In an emotional speech, Hernando Calleja said he was sharing the pain of the loss of his brother José María, a well-known journalist and writer in Madrid, with other relatives of “anonymous” victims.

“Let’s not forget that the coronavirus was and continues to be a cold, cruel, and wrecking executioner,” Calleja said at the ceremony at Madrid’s Royal Palace.

While stringent lockdown measures have slowed the spread of the virus across much of Europe, there are growing signs of second waves of infections, and the pandemic is still gathering pace elsewhere.

More than 13.5 million people have been infected worldwide and over 580,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are thought to be far higher for a number of reasons, including limited testing.

India’s record daily increase of nearly 32,700 cases pushed its total close to 1 million and led authorities to reimpose a three-day lockdown and night curfew in the popular western beach state of Goa, two weeks after it was reopened to tourists.

The state’s top elected official, Pramod Sawant, said people there were flouting social distancing rules and not wearing face masks. Nearly 40,000 people have been fined in the past two weeks for not wearing masks.

Even in Japan, which has fewer than 23,000 confirmed cases and about 1,000 deaths, officials are fretting about moves to revitalize the hard-hit tourism industry.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged a need to re-examine a government campaign offering discounts for traveling within Japan that is set to start next week.

“We are looking at the situation with a high level of nervousness,” Abe said.

Tokyo’s bars, clubs, cabarets, and karaoke parlors have been seen as a weak link in efforts to contain the virus. But the most recent data show the illness also spreading in offices, in nursery schools and in senior facilities, undoing earlier progress.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Tokyo for Thursday totaled 286, a record for the capital, Gov. Yuriko Koike said.

At the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, the laid-back resort city of La Paz closed its beaches once again after having re-opened them in June. Municipal authorities reported that this week, 1,230 people and 673 vehicles were turned back or removed from beaches as part of the closure after beachgoers largely ignored social distancing, maximum capacities, and other sanitary measures.

In California, organizers canceled the 2021 New Year’s Day Rose Parade in Pasadena for the first time in 75 years, fearing that even six months from now infections could spread among participants and the hundreds of thousands who line the route.

That move came two days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom shut bars and indoor dining statewide, and ordered closures of hair salons, gyms, malls, and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles and other counties experiencing the most significant surge of virus cases.

Americans heading overseas were causing consternation in Ireland, amid fears that some were ignoring the government’s requirement that they self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. The Irish Post cited restaurant owners who complained that they had no way of knowing if American visitors had completed the two-week quarantine.

Showing that there can be a way forward, China became the first economy to resume growing since the pandemic began in its central city of Wuhan. It reported an unexpectedly strong 3.2% expansion in the latest quarter after anti-virus lockdowns were lifted and factories and stores reopened. The 6.8% contraction in January-March was the country’s worst downturn since at least the mid-1960s.

Economists say China is likely to recover faster than some other major economies due to the ruling Communist Party’s decision to impose the most intensive anti-disease measures in history. Those cut off most access to cities with a total of 60 million people and suspended trade and travel — steps later imitated by some Asian and European governments as the virus spread.

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