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Coronavirus cases surge in Europe and Latin America

Germany and Poland enforced new restrictions to fight the coronavirus Saturday as the number of cases surged in Europe, and breached 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bars and restaurants are to close at 11:00 pm (2100 GMT) in Berlin until October 31 in a partial curfew, a measure already imposed -- but starting an hour earlier -- in the financial capital Frankfurt.

The shutdown in the German capital -- with more than 400 new cases daily -- also covers all shops except pharmacies and petrol stations, although they will be banned from selling alcohol.

"This is not the time to party," said Berlin's social democratic mayor Michael Muller. "We can and we want to prevent another more severe confinement."

Chancellor Angela Merkel had already warned Friday that high-infection areas would be given 10 days to bring down cases or face tougher action, calling big cities the "arena" to keep the pandemic under control.

In neighbouring Poland, the authorities told people to wear face masks in all public spaces after coronavirus cases hit a new record daily high of 4,280.

To the south, the Czech Republic faced the prospect of a new lockdown as the growth in COVID-19 cases set a fourth straight daily record. The number of 8,618 was the fastest spike in Europe.

Governments on several continents are struggling to keep up with a sharp rise in infections as the pandemic's second wave arrives ahead of the northern hemisphere's influenza season.

Since it emerged in China late last year, the virus has killed more than one million worldwide, infected more than 36 million and forced millions more out of work as the pandemic batters the global economy.

10 million case in LatAm, Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean marked 10 million cases Saturday and with more than 360,000 deaths, the region is the worst hit in terms of fatalities, according to official figures.

EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was the latest high-profile figure to test positive for Covid-19. She announced the news on Saturday, the first top Brussels official known to have caught the coronavirus.

Gabriel, the EU commissioner for research and innovation, had already announced on Monday she would self-isolate after a member of her team tested positive to the novel virus.

British cyclist Simon Yates pulled out of the Giro d'Italia after he tested positive.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself spent time in hospital for the virus, is to outline a new three-tier lockdown system on Monday. 

On Friday, the Spanish government declared a state of emergency and a new partial lockdown for Madrid, as it faced increasing public resistance to anti-virus measures.

People were barred from leaving the city except for work, school or medical reasons, measures denounced by the city's rightwing authorities.

The resistance in Madrid echoes problems the French government faced last month when it shut bars and restaurants in Marseille, provoking the fury of local officials.

Partial shutdowns have since been extended to Paris and other major urban areas, and another four French cities were placed on maximum coronavirus alert Thursday, with bars ordered closed and public gatherings limited.

Trump 'safe return'

Overall, the coronavirus continued its progression around the world this week, with 315,000 new cases on average per day -- six percent more than the previous week, according to an AFP tally on Friday.

US President Donald Trump was to give a public speech at the White House Saturday for the first time since testing positive for Covid-19. He also announced plans to hold a rally in Florida on Monday, despite receiving treatment all week for coronavirus.

Trump's doctor issued a statement saying he was fit for a "safe return to public engagement" from Saturday.

But there is widespread scepticism about the president's health, given doctors' refusal to explain exactly when he might have been infected and when he last had a negative test.

Media reports said the White House was preparing a $1.8 trillion economic rescue plan, but with political divisions firmly entrenched ahead of the November presidential election, it faces major roadblocks. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday wished coronavirus sufferers around the world good health at a military parade that defied the pandemic while claiming his country was free of the virus.

Pyongyang closed its borders in January to try to protect itself from the disease and regularly said it had no cases.

Stranded migrants

As the social and economic costs of the global pandemic continue to rise, the United Nations released figures showing the toll on the world's migrant workers.

The UN's International Organization for Migration said around 2.75 million migrants who wished to return home were stranded because of restrictions put in place to fight the pandemic.

Most of them, 1.26 million, were from the Middle East and North Africa, with another million from Asia and the Pacific.

In a rare display of normality on Sunday, however, New Zealand and Australia are to play the first rugby Test since the pandemic began, in front of a packed, largely mask-free crowd in Wellington.

Topics: coronavirus disease , Michael Muller , Angela Merkel , United Nations
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