Germany eases restrictions as protests rock battered US

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Protesters gather at the Texas State Capital building calling for the easing of restrictions put in place to tame the spread of Covid-19. Trump has supported the protests. Photo/AFP

  Berlin, Monday

Germany and other parts of Europe took tentative steps to ease lockdown measures on Monday but officials warned the battle against the coronavirus pandemic was far from over. 

Germany reopened small shops, car dealerships and bicycle stores, in a tentative easing of the coronavirus lockdown imposed nearly a month ago.

The country has flattened the curve of new infections and last week said it had got the spread under control. But social distancing remains.

This happened as protests rocked the US, with citizens demanding that governors reopen economies shut by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rallies in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Washington state took place yesterday, following earlier protests in half a dozen states.

Agitation for easing restrictions has grown, despite the risk of a Covid-19 resurgence posed by reopening too soon.

US President Donald Trump has signalled support for the protests. The US has become the centre of the Covid-19 crisis, with more than  750,000 cases and over 40,000 deaths—but signs have emerged that it is reaching the apex of the outbreak. 

After being hit hard by the virus that first emerged in China late last year, Europe has seen encouraging signs in recent days, with death rates dropping in Italy, Spain, France and Britain.

The hope is tempered by fears of new waves of infections, warnings that life will not be back to normal for many months and deep concern over the devastating impact the virus is having on the global economy.

But even the smallest return to normality was welcome. In Norway, Silje Skifjell dropped off her boys Isaak and Kasper at a nursery in the north of the capital Oslo.

“He was so excited we had to leave the house early to come here and see the other children,” she said. “I almost cried, he was so happy to see his friends.

Humanity confined

Governments around the world are mulling how and when to ease lockdowns that have kept more than half of humanity confined to their homes.

The virus has so far infected more than 2.4 million people globally and killed some 166,066 as at Monday, with nearly two thirds of the victims in Europe, according to Johns Hopkins University tally.

Germany, which has been hailed for keeping fatalities low, is allowing smaller shops to reopen in some regions.

Larger shops and those in major German cities will open later as part of an attempted phased return to a more normal existence that will also see some students go back to school from May 4.

But officials are keeping a watchful eye, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Monday she is “greatly concerned” that virus-fighting discipline among the German public may ebb. 

Hard-hit Spain, where a nationwide lockdown has been extended, also said it would ease some restrictions to allow children time outside.

The country on Monday recorded 399 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, its lowest daily count in weeks, and authorities are starting to shut some makeshift facilities set up to relieve the overburdened health system. -AFP and BBC

More on World