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Gloom hangs over US holiday weekend

China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-07 09:47
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Passengers comply with coronavirus regulations in Union Station in Washington, DC, on Friday. ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES/AFP

NEW YORK-The resurgent coronavirus, with daily new infections running at more than 160,000, has cast a pall on the Labor Day holiday weekend in the United States. With the rising caseloads and around 100,000 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals, the bitter realization is dawning on many that the coronavirus will remain a fact of life in the US for the foreseeable future.

The seven-day average of confirmed infections stood at 160,901 nationwide on Saturday. For a 14-day period, the rise was 7 percent. COVID-19-related deaths came to 1,544 on Saturday, a jump of 53 percent from the prior 14-day period, according to The New York Times.

"The irony is that things got so good in May and most of June that all of us, including me, were talking about the end game," John Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, was quoted as saying. "We started to enjoy life again. Within a very few weeks, it all came crashing down."

The resurgence of the pandemic has left the country "exhausted, nervous and less certain than ever about when normalcy might return", the newspaper said on Sunday.

The impacts of the resurging pandemic are more apparent on campuses and at airports as the summer fizzles out.

The recent spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has thrown back-to-school plans into disarray, temporarily driving tens of thousands of students back to virtual learning or pausing instruction altogether, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Since the school year started in late July, at least 1,000 schools across 31 states have closed because of COVID-19, according to Burbio, a data service that is monitoring school closures at 1,200 districts nationwide, including the 200 largest.

In the meantime, the US airline industry's recovery has been grounded by the spike in cases, prompting people to cancel the travel plans they had for the Labor Day weekend, news website The Hill reported.

Air travel neared pre-pandemic levels in July, giving the airlines momentum and optimism for a robust fall season, but flight bookings dipped in August amid soaring infection rates fueled by the Delta variant, according to the report.

Sharp rise in fears

The Delta variant's two-month surge has generated a sharp rise in people's fears about contracting the coronavirus and undermined confidence in US President Joe Biden's leadership, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Some 47 percent of respondents rate their risk of getting sick from the coronavirus as moderate or high, up 18 percentage points from late June. Biden's approval rating on his handling of the pandemic has dropped to 52 percent from 62 percent in late June, days before he said the nation was "closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus".

Globally, more than 220 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including more than 4.5 million deaths, had been reported to the Johns Hopkins University as of early Monday.

In Iraq, authorities will limit the entry of foreign pilgrims for the major Shiite ritual of Arbaeen out of fears for the spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at a meeting on Sunday decided to allow 30,000 pilgrims from neighboring Iran and 10,000 from other countries to observe the ritual, which will start on Sept 27.

Going in the other direction is Israel, which will allow small foreign tour groups from certain countries to visit from Sept 19 under a pilot program to kick-start tourism, the government said on Sunday.

Tour groups of between 5 and 30 vaccinated people from low-risk countries will be allowed to enter the country, the tourism ministry said.

Elsewhere, New Zealand will mostly lift its COVID-19 lockdown this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

About 3 million New Zealanders will no longer be under stay-at-home orders as of Tuesday overnight, and schools will reopen on Thursday for the first time in three weeks. But she added that Auckland, where the country's Delta variant outbreak emerged late last month, will remain in hard lockdown for at least another week as the virus was not yet contained in the city of 2 million.

Xinhua - Agencies

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