Lockdowns ease as Covid-19 global cases near 3 million

Monday, April 27th, 2020 00:00 |
A woman and three children walk in Seville, Spain on Sunday. Spain’s children were allowed out today to run, play or go for a walk as the government eased lockdown. Photo/AFP

Madrid, Sunday

Spanish children were allowed outside on Sunday for the first time in six weeks as countries eased lockdown measures and reopen economies gutted by the coronavirus pandemic that has infected nearly three million people worldwide.

Governments from France to Italy and the United States are gearing up for a partial easing of severe restrictions that have kept over half of humanity indoors for weeks on end.   

Coronavirus cases around the world rose to 2,917,073 million, with 203,545 deaths as at Sunday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University tally. 

The daily toll in Western countries appeared to be levelling off and even falling, but fears abound in many places of a second surge after restrictions on movement are lifted.

Governments are planning to slowly peel back lockdown measures in order to avoid a sudden rush back to normal life—and the risk of a resurgence amid warnings from the WHO that recovered people may not be immune to reinfection. 

Spanish families embraced new rules allowing children outside for the first time since March 14, with kids hopping on bicycles and scooters on the streets of Madrid —some wearing small masks and gloves. 

“They are super excited, very impatient. They were up at 6:30am, saying ‘We are going out, We are going out!’,” Inmaculada Paredes told AFP, readying to take her seven- and four-year-old children outdoors.

Under the revised rules, children are allowed out once per day between 9am and 9pm, but cannot venture more than a kilometre from their homes.

The new rules were rolled out as the death toll in the hard-hit country dropped to 288 people on Sunday, the lowest since March 30. 

With more than 23,000 fatalities, Spain has the third highest death toll in the world after Italy’s 26,000 and more than 53,000 in the United States.

Other hard-hit countries across Europe are also starting to look toward a slow crawl back to normality. 

Resume operations

Italy on Sunday said schools would reopen in September, while many business could resume work next week, and France was expected to unveil details of its de-confinement plan on Tuesday.

Belgium said schools and businesses will reopen from mid-May, while Germany started to reopen some shops earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it would partially lift its 24-hour curfew, allowing malls and retailers to open their doors during certain hours. But the kingdom said it would maintain a round-the-clock lockdown in the holy city of Mecca.

Rejecting the advice of top disease experts, the US state of Georgia allowed thousands of businesses to resume operations, from hairdressers to bowling alleys.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he wants to resume business even as medical advisors have cautioned against easing lockdown too soon or too fast. 

The US leader faced a fresh volley of criticism after suggesting that coronavirus could be treated by shining ultraviolet light inside patients’ bodies, or with injections of household disinfectant.

He lashed out at the media on Twitter, accusing journalists of posing hostile questions, and suggested his daily coronavirus briefings were not worth his time. 

Meanwhile in Beijing, a new set of regulations were introduced to combat the pandemic, banning “uncivilised” behaviour such as not covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. -AFP

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