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Infections at 10 million as voters go to polls again

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Behind the mask: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte leave after casting their ballots. Photo: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Behind the mask: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte leave after casting their ballots. Photo: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

REUTERS

Behind the mask: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte leave after casting their ballots. Photo: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Worldwide confirmed coronavirus infections hit the 10 million mark yesterday as voters in Poland and France went to the polls for virus-delayed elections.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in Leicester in England show the virus is still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the US, Latin America and India.

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Polish President Andrzej Duda votes in Krakow in the country’s delayed presidential election. Photo: Adrianna Bochenek/Agencja Gazeta/via Reuters

Polish President Andrzej Duda votes in Krakow in the country’s delayed presidential election. Photo: Adrianna Bochenek/Agencja Gazeta/via Reuters

via REUTERS

Polish President Andrzej Duda votes in Krakow in the country’s delayed presidential election. Photo: Adrianna Bochenek/Agencja Gazeta/via Reuters

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections.

Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitiser, and some in virus-hit areas were told to mail in their ballots to avoid further contagion.

"I didn't go and vote the first time around because I am elderly and I got scared," said Fanny Barouh as she voted in a Paris school.

While concern in the US has focused on big states like Texas, Arizona and Florida reporting thousands of new cases a day, rural states are also seeing infection surges, including in Kansas, where livestock outnumber people.

The US handling of the outbreak has drawn concern from abroad. The EU seems almost certain to bar Americans arriving in the short term as it draws up new travel rules.

The infection surges prompted Vice President Mike Pence to call off campaign events in Florida and Arizona, although he will still travel to those states and Texas this week to meet their Republican governors. They have come under criticism for aggressively reopening their economies after virus lockdowns despite increasing infections.

After confirmed daily infections in the US hit a record high of 40,000 on Friday, Texas and Florida reversed course and closed down bars again.

Arizona's Republican Governor Doug Ducey reversed himself and allowed cities and counties to require face masks in public even though he hasn't been seen wearing one.

"This is not a sprint, this is a marathon," said Dr Lisa Goldberg, director of the emergency department of Tucson Medical Centre in Arizona. "In fact, it's an ultra-marathon."

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stressed "the window is closing" to take action to effectively curb the coronavirus.

Mr Azar pointed to a recent spike in infections, particularly in the south. He said people have "to act responsibly" by social distancing and wearing face masks, especially "in these hot zones".

He argued the US is in a better position than two months ago as it is conducting more testing and has therapeutics available to treat Covid-19. But he acknowledged hospitalisations and deaths could increase in the next few weeks.

Globally, confirmed Covid-19 cases passed the 10 million mark and confirmed deaths neared half a million, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University, with the US, Brazil, Russia and India having the most cases. The US also has the highest virus death toll at over 125,000.

Experts say all those figures significantly undercount the true toll of the pandemic, due to limited testing and missed mild cases. US government experts last week estimated the country could have had 20 million cases.

Polish voters were casting ballots, in person and by mail, for a presidential election that was chaotically postponed in May amid the pandemic.

President Andrzej Duda, a 48-year-old conservative backed by the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party, is running against 10 other candidates as he seeks a second five-year term.

Iwona Goge (79) was encouraged to see so many people voting in Warsaw.

"It's bad. Poland is terribly divided and people are getting discouraged," she said.

French voters were choosing mayors and local councillors in Paris and 5,000 towns and cities in a second round of municipal elections held under strict hygiene rules.

Key battlegrounds include Paris, where the next mayor will preside over the 2024 Summer Olympics. The spread of the virus in France has slowed significantly but was expected to lower yesterday's turnout.

Italy honoured its dead with an evening requiem concert in hard-hit Bergamo province.

The ceremony in the onetime epicentre of the European outbreak came a day after Italy registered the lowest daily tally of Covid-19 deaths in nearly four months: eight.

German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people after about 1,300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive.

Swiss authorities ordered 300 people into quarantine after a "superspreader" outbreak of coronavirus at a Zurich nightclub.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi says they must focus on bolstering the economy as it exits the lockdown phase, even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb.

Yesterday, India reported additional 19,906 confirmed cases, taking the total to 528,859 with 16,095 deaths.

Irish Independent