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Grand Canyon closed to public over coronavirus

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The Grand Canyon was closed to visitors with immediate effect Wednesday, making the Arizona landmark visited by millions each year the latest tourist hotspot to shut over the coronavirus pandemic.

The closure follows several warnings in recent days by county officials and Navajo Native American leaders over crowds continuing to gather at the natural wonder.

Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva said hundreds of visitors were staying in the Grand Canyon Park despite officials instructions to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

The National Park Service has so far avoided a blanket closure of its 419 sites across the United States, preferring to assess each on a case-by-case basis.

"As soon as we received the letter from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the closure of Grand Canyon National Park, we closed the park," said US Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in a statement.

More than 80 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Coconino County, including at least one inside Grand Canyon Park.

Wyoming's Yellowstone, and both Joshua Tree and Yosemite in California, are among national parks which have already closed.

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