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COVID-19: Fauci refutes Trump's testing claims amid 'disturbing surge' of US cases

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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testified on the US coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2020
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testified on the US coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2020   -   Copyright  Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP
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The United States is seeing a "disturbing surge" in coronavirus infections in a number of states, the nation’s top infectious disease official has warned.

The next few weeks will be critical to stem the new outbreaks, Dr Anthony Fauci told the US Congress on Tuesday, issuing a plea for people to avoid crowds and wear masks in public.

Cases of COVID-19 are now rising in about half of the country’s states, with California, Texas and Arizona reporting record rates of hospitalisations. Several states - including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas - have set single-day records.

"Right now, the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we're seeing in Florida and Texas, in Arizona and in other states. They're not the only ones that are having difficulty," Fauci said.

Testifying before a House committee, Dr. Fauci also shot down a claim from President Trump that his team had agreed to reduce testing.

"To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing."

At least 2.3 million Americans have been infected and more than 120,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci told lawmakers he understands the desire to get back to normal as the country begins emerging from months of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But that has "to be a gradual step-by-step process and not throwing caution to the wind," he said.

"Plan A: don't go in a crowd. Plan B: if you do, make sure you wear a mask," Fauci said.

In Arizona, which on Tuesday reported 3,600 new infections, hundreds of young conservatives packed a megachurch in Phoenix for a Trump reelection campaign rally, where the president refused to wear a mask.

Similarly, Brazil's leader has also been countermanded – this time by a judge. President Jair Bolsonaro has been ordered to wear a face mask when circulating in the capital, Brasília.

The president has sparked outrage by flouting measures designed to slow the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Brazilians.

In India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, the densely populated cities of Mumbai and New Delhi have been the hardest hit. The country has reported more than 450,000 cases of the virus, including more than 14,000 deaths.

The Australian government is encouraging everyone in the state of Victoria with cold and flu symptoms to be tested for COVID-19, especially those living in one of six coronavirus hotspots now identified. The state has recorded double-digit cases for the seventh straight day running.

Worldwide, more than 9.2 million people have contracted the virus, including more than 477,000 who have died, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In China, an outbreak that infected more than 200 people in Beijing this month appeared to be waning after officials in the capital said they tested more than 2.4 million people in 10 days. China reported 12 cases on Wednesday, down from 22 the day before. Beijing reported seven new cases, down from 13.