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Schools shut in Beijing as coronavirus flares

Beijing raised its level of health alert to the second highest Tuesday, ordering schools to close and urging people to work from home as China’s government pressed to extinguish a spike in coronavirus infections menacing the capital.

The city announced the intensified health emergency footing late in the day, after having revealed that medical authorities confirmed another 27 infections from the virus, creating a total of 106 cases since last week, all traced to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market in the city’s south.

City officials face intense pressure to stop the new outbreak. Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, made defending Beijing from mass infections a priority. The capital is a nerve center of Chinese Communist Party rule and a crowded metropolis with more than 21 million people.

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Even so, the decision to raise the level of alert and shut schools was a potentially embarrassing and disruptive reversal for the government. Beijing had lowered its alert level just 10 days earlier. Many grades had restarted over previous weeks, while others were just about to resume.

In recent days, Beijing had already reinstated some anti-epidemic controls. Taxis had been ordered not to leave the city, and restaurants had been ordered to cancel banquets. A lockdown of residents in dozens of neighborhoods close to infection hot spots — preventing them from leaving their housing compounds or receiving visitors — expanded Tuesday to cover seven more neighborhoods in the west of Beijing.

The new level of vigilance announced Tuesday will make these restrictions stricter, broader, and more urgent.

The cases clustered in one of the city’s most important sources of food appears to have alarmed officials that stall holders, suppliers, and vendors could scatter the virus across the city. At the news conference Tuesday, officials released details of the 27 latest cases, revealing that seven of the infected worked in restaurants, preparing food or serving diners.

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Dozens of cities and provinces across China have in recent days stepped up monitoring and quarantine measures for people from Beijing.

New York Times

Canada, US, and Mexico extend border restrictions

TORONTO — The United States, Canada, and Mexico have agreed to extend their agreements to keep their shared borders closed to nonessential travel to July 21 during the coronavirus pandemic

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday’s agreement extends the closure by another 30 days. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April and May.

The acting US secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, said in a statement that the department will continue to limit nonessential travel at land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry also tweeted that the agreement had been extended.

Many Canadians fear a reopening. The virus has sickened more than 2 million people in the United States and killed more than 115,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. It has sickened more than 99,000 and killed 8,175 in Canada.

Associated Press

Turkey mandates masks in 42 provinces after uptick

ANKARA — Turkey has made the wearing of face masks mandatory in five more provinces, following an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted early Tuesday that the wearing of masks is now compulsory in 42 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

In the remaining provinces, residents are required to wear masks on public transportation and in shops and malls, and are being advised to wear masks and keep to social-distancing practices elsewhere.

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Turkey saw an upward trend in the daily number of infections after the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches, and museums to reopen, lifted inter-city travel restrictions, and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young at the start of June.

The daily number of infections rose steadily to above 1,500 on Sunday and Monday after hovering around 800 to 900 last week.

Turkey now has 181,298 COVID-19 infections and 4,842 deaths.

Associated Press

Protesting French hospital workers demand better pay

PARIS — Hospital workers rallied in cities around France on Tuesday to demand better pay and more investment in the country’s public hospital system, and police fired tear gas at troublemakers on the sidelines of a protest march in Paris.

Although French hospitals are considered to be among the world’s best, they struggled to handle a rush of COVID-19 patients after years of cost cuts. France has reported nearly 30,000 coronavirus-related deaths, the fifth-highest pandemic death toll worldwide, and the country’s hospitals have treated more than 100,000 people with the virus.

In Paris, thousands of demonstrators, many wearing white medical coats, marched peacefully through the Left Bank. As the crowd reached the gold-domed Invalides monument, a few protesters threw paving stones, police fired tear gas, and a fire sent black smoke rising over the neighborhood.

The hospital labor unions that led the protest denounced the aggressive behavior. Peaceful protests were held in the southern city of Marseille and other sites around France.

Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth to miss Royal Ascot, a first in reign

LONDON — Nothing has kept Queen Elizabeth II away from the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting during her 68-year reign as UK monarch — not pregnancy, a speech to Parliament, or even an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

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But this year, the 94-year-old queen will not be attending Royal Ascot, which starts Tuesday, because of the pandemic.

It is one of the country’s most high-profile horse racing events and one that effectively launches a great British summer of sport that also includes Wimbledon tennis and golf’s Open Championship.

Unlike Wimbledon and the British Open, Royal Ascot has not been canceled as a result of the pandemic, though spectators will be absent. The racing-mad monarch will have to make do with watching the races on television.

Associated Press