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Spike in South Korea virus cases shows perils of reopening

SEOUL — As Mediterranean beaches and Las Vegas casinos laid out plans to welcome tourists again, South Korea announced a spike in new infections Wednesday and considered reimposing social-distancing restrictions, revealing the setbacks ahead for other nations on the road to reopening.

The 40 new cases marked the country’s biggest daily jump in nearly 50 days, causing alarm as millions of children return to school. Active tracing and testing had stabilized the country’s outbreak from its March highs, which allowed officials to ease social-distancing guidelines.

But a steady rise in cases in the greater capital area in recent weeks has raised concerns as officials proceed with a phased reopening of schools. High school seniors returned to schools last week, and more than 2 million high school juniors, middle school seniors, first- and second-graders and kindergartners were expected to return to school on Wednesday.

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The Education Ministry said school openings were delayed in 561 schools nationwide due to virus worries, including 111 schools in Seoul.

South Korea has confirmed a total of 11,265 cases of the coronavirus, including 269 deaths.

The country’s top infectious disease specialist said South Korea may need to reimpose social-distancing restrictions because it’s becoming increasingly difficult for health workers to track the spread of COVID-19 amid warmer weather and eased attitudes on distancing.

Associated Press

Luxembourg starts to test its entire population for virus

LUXEMBOURG — Luxembourg started a coronavirus testing program Wednesday to check each and every one of its roughly 600,000 people, as well as cross-border workers, over the next nine weeks.

Luxembourg isn’t all that big — the second-smallest country by area and population in the 27-nation European Union. Shoehorned in between France, Germany, and Belgium, it’s also one of the richest in terms of GDP per capita.

Still, the new coronavirus initiative is also testing its means.

The point of the program is to try and blunt a potential second wave before it develops, as many predict will happen after the European summer.

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So far, Luxembourg has 110 confirmed deaths and almost 4,000 people have been confirmed as having tested positive.

Authorities will have 17 drive-through, walk-through, and even cycle-through test stations, which should have everyone processed by the end of July. Positive cases will have to self-isolate while their contacts will be traced.

Associated Press

Iran’s new parliament convenes despite pandemic

TEHRAN — Iran’s newly elected parliament convened on Wednesday, dominated by conservative lawmakers and under strict social-distancing regulations, as the country struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has hit the nation hard.

Iranian state TV said all 268 lawmakers who were in attendance had tested negative for the virus. The lawmakers were sworn in after many of them arrived for the opening ceremony wearing face masks and observing regulations. Temperatures were taken before they entered the parliament building.

However, images from the meeting showed that many did not wear masks and did not observe social distancing during proceedings.

Iran is grappling with the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 7,500 fatalities out of over 141,500 confirmed cases.

Associated Press

Mexico president to resume travel; will fly commercial

MEXICO CITY — Just hours after Mexican health officials reported record numbers of deaths and new coronavirus infections, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday he will resume his travel schedule next week, flying commercial to the beach destination of Cancun.

Prior to the pandemic, the president, who has yet to leave Mexico on an international trip, effectively operated like he was still on the campaign trail, crisscrossing the country each week to hug and shake hands with his admirers.

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Throughout two months of social-distancing measures, López Obrador has fretted about the impact on the economy and stubbornly refused to halt his key infrastructure projects. One of the those, the Mayan Train, which is supposed tol whisk tourists around the Yucatan Peninsula, will be the objective of his first scheduled trip since March.

He said he would restrict his events to no more than 50 people and maintain a healthy distance, a dramatic change from his usual events amid crowds .

Associated Press

Serbia bans Montenegro flights amid rising tensions

BELGRADE — Serbian authorities have banned Montenegro’s national carrier from operating flights out of Belgrade after the nation’s government excluded Serbia from a list of countries with which Montenegro will reopen its borders after declaring an end to its coronavirus outbreak.

The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate said Montenegro Airlines planes cannot land at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport as of Wednesday. The agency said unrestricted travel between the countries has been “seriously violated” by Montenegro’s decision to ban Serbs from entering Montenegro.

The flight and entry bans come amid deepening tensions between the former Balkan allies, which existed as one state before Montenegro split off through a 2006 referendum.

Montenegro Airlines planned to resume flights to the Serbian capital on June 1. Air Serbia still has plans to fly to two destinations in Montenegro starting June 7.

Montenegro declared itself “coronavirus-free” as the first country in Europe with no more active COVID-19 cases. Before then, the country recorded a total of 324 confirmed virus cases and nine deaths. Serbia has recorded more than 11,000 confirmed cases, including nearly 240 deaths.

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Associated Press

India faces another plague as hungry locusts swarm

NEW DELHI — As if India needed more challenges, with coronavirus infections steadily increasing, a heat wave hitting the capital, and 100 million people out of work, the country now has to fight off a new problem: a locust invasion.

Scientists say it’s the worst attack in 25 years and these locusts are different.

“This time the attack is by very young locusts who fly for longer distances, at faster speeds, unlike adults in the past who were sluggish and not so fast,” said K.L. Gurjar, the deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organization.

The locusts poured in from Iran and Pakistan, blanketing half a dozen states in western and central India. Because most of the crops were recently harvested, the hungry swarms have buzzed into urban areas, eager to devour bushes and trees, carpeting whatever surface they land on.

New York Times