China imposes COVID-19 lockdown near Beijing; U.N. warns of new hunger wave

June 29 (UPI) — A strict lockdown has been imposed in a Chinese province near Beijing following the discovery of less than 20 COVID-19 cases, and United Nations official warned Monday about a new wave of hunger related to the virus.

The lockdown in the central Chinese province of Hebei near Beijing came Sunday as the pandemic topped two milestones during the weekend — 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths — since the first ones were reported six months ago.

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In China, authorities imposed a strict lockdown in Anxin county after 18 new cases were detected there.

The measure affects 400,000 residents in the county and mandates that “all villages, communities and buildings will be fully closed” in Anxin, located about 90 miles from Beijing.

Under the rules, families are only permitted to send one person per household outside to purchase supplies once a day. All outside vehicles are banned.

In the capital itself people are still allowed to leave the city if they have a negative virus test.

At the United Nations, the U.N. World Food Program said Monday the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a wave of hunger, pushing “millions more people into food insecurity” in low- and middle-income countries.

“The front line in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” food program executive director David Beasley said.

In response, he said, the program is undertaking biggest humanitarian effort in its history, boosting the number of people it is helping from 97 million last year to up to 138 million in 2020.

New estimates show that the number of hungry in lower-income countries could rise to 270 million before the year’s end — an 82 percent increase from before the pandemic.

The U.N. agency is urgently seeking to raise $ 4.9 billion over the next six months for its work.

“Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” Beasley warned. “Without it, we could see increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict and widespread under-nutrition among populations that were previously immune from hunger.”

A pandemic also is threatening to send about 8 million middle-class Africans into poverty, according to the World Data Lab.

“The tragedy is that because Africa is not growing fast, this collapse of the middle class could take several years to recover,” World Data Lab co-founder Homi Kharas told The New York Times.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted the coronavirus pandemic has been “a disaster” for the country and called for a U.S. New Deal-style program of government investment to help recover from the economic shock.

In comments made Monday to Times Radio, Johnson said the pandemic has had a devastating effect on Britain’s economy, which is expected to contract by up to 10 percent in 2020.

He called for a “Rooseveltian approach to the U.K.” referring to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt‘s 1930s New Deal policies in which massive taxpayer investments were made in public works projects in response to the Great Depression.

“This has been a disaster, let’s not mince our words, this has been an absolute nightmare for the country,” he said. “The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments you have the opportunity to change and to do things better.

“We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband — you name it.”

Labor Party Leader Keir Starmer, meanwhile, criticized Johnson’s handling of school closures during the pandemic, accusing his government of “a total lack of planning” for not yet announcing if schools will reopen on time in September.

“If there had been a plan, that had started two or three months ago, we would probably have most children back in school now,” Starmer said.

World moves to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

A stylist wears a protective face mask while giving a haircut to a client at Roman K. Salon Luxury Hair Salon as New York City enters phase two of a four-part reopening plan on June 22. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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