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Coronavirus deaths hit 500,000 worldwide as China imposes local lockdown and Seoul considers new measures amid spike

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The death toll from Covid-19 passed half a million people while South Korea and China appear to be battling a second outbreak of the virus.

The respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus has been particularly dangerous for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, although other adults and children are also among the 501,000 fatalities and 10.1 million reported cases.

While the overall rate of death has flattened in recent weeks, health experts have expressed concerns about record numbers of new cases in countries like the United States, Brazil, as well as new outbreaks in parts of Asia.

More than 4,700 people are dying every 24 hours from Covid-19-linked illness, based on an average from June 1 to 27.

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That equates to 196 people per hour, or one person every 18 seconds.

A girl raises her fist in the air in front of the Minneapolis First Precinct during a Pride march on June 28, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Getty Images)

It comes as South Korea has reported 42 new cases of Covid-19 as infections steadily climb in the greater capital area, forcing authorities to consider stronger social restrictions.

The figures announced by the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the national caseload to 12,757, including 282 deaths.

Twenty-four of the new cases were reported from capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May.

At least 12 of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the virus continues to strengthen its hold elsewhere around the world.

South Korea was reporting hundreds of new cases a day in late February and early March following a major surge surrounding the southeast city of Daegu, where the majority of infections were linked to a single church congregation with thousands of members.

A barber cuts a customer’s hair on a street amid a recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Beijing (AFP via Getty Images)

But while health authorities had used aggressive testing and contact tracing to contain the outbreak in that region, they are having a much harder time tracking recent transmissions in the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live.

Meanwhile, China has imposed a strict lockdown in Anxin County, Heibi, near Beijing, after a new surge in cases. Anxin is 90 miles south of Beijing and the lockdown affects 400,000 people.

There have been 18 cases in Anxin since the recent outbreak in a meat market Beijing two weeks ago. The nation’s capital has now seen 311 new cases since mid-June.

Case numbers are also growing swiftly in Latin America, on Sunday surpassing those diagnosed in Europe, making the region the second most affected by the pandemic, after North America.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus cross a road in Seoul (AP)

Texas has seen a surge of cases after allowing businesses to reopen following the US’ nationwide lockdown, and has begun to reimpose restrictions.

Both Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Governor Greg Abbott acknowledged the rapid rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the state in recent weeks after Mr Abbott began allowing businesses to start reopening in early May.

“Covid 19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Mr Abbott, who on Friday again shut down bars and limited restaurant dining, a day after Texas reported a record high confirmed positive tests of 5,996.

Governor Abbott has also banned elective surgeries in the state’s largest counties.

Mr Pence praised Mr Abbott for his decisions both to reopen the state, then to roll back the reopening plans. He also encouraged the wearing of face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“Wear a mask, where ever it’s indicated or where ever you’re not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said Mr Pence, who along with Mr Abbott wore a face mask as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

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