World govts debate lockdown ease

Source:AFP Published: 2020/4/20 19:33:41

Many countries see decreased infections as restrictions slowly lifted

People wearing face masks are seen on a street in Milan, Italy, on April 18, 2020. A further 482 people had died of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours in Italy, raising the country's death toll to 23,227, official data showed on Saturday. (Xinhua)

Hard-hit European nations began preparing for a slow reopening and the US epicenter New York reported headway on Sunday in their battle against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments across the world are now debating how and when to ease lockdowns that have kept more than half of humanity - 4.5 billion people - confined to their homes crippling the global economy.

Europe saw encouraging signs Sunday, with Italy, Spain, France and Britain showing drops in daily death tolls and slowing infection rates.

The continent accounts for almost two-thirds of the nearly 167,000 fatalities reported across the globe out of more than 2.4 million declared infections, according to an AFP tally.

In the US, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the outbreak was "on the descent," though he cautioned that it was "no time to get cocky."

Mounting evidence suggests that the lockdowns and social distancing are slowing the spread of the virus. That has intensified planning in many countries to begin loosening curbs on movement and easing the crushing pressure on national economies.

Hard-hit Spain has extended a nationwide shutdown but said it would ease restrictions to allow children time outside. Switzerland, Denmark and Finland all began reopening shops and schools.

Germany will allow some shops to reopen Monday after declaring the virus "under control," while Italy mulled easing restrictions.

Iran, which has the Middle East's deadliest outbreak, allowed some "low-risk" businesses to reopen Saturday.

Spain registered 410 new fatalities on Sunday, the lowest daily count in almost a month, and a figure that health ministry emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said "gives us hope."

The authorities are even starting to shut some makeshift facilities set up to relieve the overburdened health system, including a morgue at a Madrid ice rink.

France said a nationwide lockdown in force for a month was beginning to bear fruit, with death tolls and hospitalizations declining.

"We are scoring points against the epidemic," said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, while insisting "we are not out of the health crisis yet."

In Britain, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson - himself recovering from the virus - faced fresh criticism over his early-stage response to the crisis and shortages of protective equipment.

The US has the highest caseload of any country, with more than 772,000 confirmed infections and over 41,000 deaths.

But in New York state, Governor Cuomo said, "We are past the high point, and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent."



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