Europe moves ahead with lockdown easing, but caution in Asia
People practise acrobatics on the garden of the Esplanade des Invalides on May 28, 2020, in Paris after the French Prime Minister announced the second phase from June 2 of the easing of lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus.
AFP/Ludovic Marin
Europe moves ahead with lockdown easing, but caution in Asia
Mariette Le Roux (Agence France-Presse) - May 29, 2020 - 7:28am

PARIS, France — Several European countries including France and Britain on Thursday moved to further lift crippling coronavirus lockdown measures, but fresh restrictions in parts of Asia signalled the crisis is far from over.

As much of the world grapples to find the path forward, with the deadly virus still spreading in some places and a vaccine at best a distant reality, Europe is slowly emerging from isolation.

France is set to reopen its bars, restaurants and museums next week — when Britain will send some children back to school and shops throw open their doors.

On the sporting front, the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A unveiled plans to resume play in mid-June.

"Freedom will be the rule and restriction the exception," French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

But of course, there was sombre news as well. 

The death toll mounted to more than 357,000 around the world. More than 5.7 million have been confirmed as infected since the virus emerged in China late last year.

On the economic front, the number of unemployed climbed as well — more than 40 million in the United States have filed jobless claims since the crisis began, and Brazil shed five million jobs in the first quarter.

British carrier EasyJet said it would axe up to 30 percent of its staff, and Japanese car manufacturer Nissan reported a huge $6.2-billion annual net loss. 

And in Asia, restrictions were reimposed in South Korea and Sri Lanka after a spare of new infections sparked fears of a second wave of contagion. 

The picture remained grim in Latin America, now fully in the throes of the pandemic, with deaths in Brazil topping 25,000, and Chile recording a new record daily death toll Thursday.

In the Chilean capital Santiago, residents have taken to the streets to demand state aid as their livelihoods vanish.

"We don't even get a little help from the government here. They believe that we can live without money. But how can we buy food?" asked welder Oscar Gonzalez.

'Real sense of freedom'

In France, residents enjoyed the reopening of iconic department store Printemps on Thursday — and the news that restaurants can serve patrons on outside terraces from June 2.

At the country's museums, face masks will be required.

Citizens will also be allowed to travel more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from their homes, just in time for the summer holidays. 

"The virus is still present to varying degrees across the territory," Philippe warned as he unveiled the new measures, urging citizens to respect social-distancing guidelines and be vigilant about hand-washing.

France has recorded 28,662 virus-related deaths — the fourth highest total in the world.

In Britain, football fans rejoiced as the Premier League announced play would resume on June 17. In Italy, Serie A competition will begin again three days later.

Both leagues will play without supporters in the stands, but in Russia, a limited number will be allowed to attend matches when play restarts next month.

"Football is back soon," tweeted England captain Harry Kane, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spaniards were revisiting old joys — belting out tunes from "Grease" at a 50s-themed drive-in theatre.

"It gives you a real sense of freedom. We really wanted to get out of the house," said 22-year-old Belen Perez, who came with her flatmate.

'Heartfelt sympathy'

In the United States, the country processed a grim milestone — more than 100,000 Americans have succumbed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!" President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday.

More and more US states are moving to open up their economies, but health experts have warned not to move too quickly.

The US capital Washington will slowly move into its phase one of reopening on Friday.

The new unemployment data — another 2.12 million workers filed claims for benefits — along with US-China tensions, including over the virus, sent Wall Street tumbling at the close.

Fresh restrictions

Amid all the reopenings, there were renewed signs of caution as well.

South Korea — held up as a global model in how to curb the virus — reimposed some social distancing rules after a series of new clusters emerged, many in the capital Seoul. 

Museums, parks and art galleries will all be closed again from Friday for two weeks, while companies were urged to reintroduce flexible working, among other measures. 

And in Sri Lanka, some lockdown rules will be rolled out again from Sunday after more than 250 returnees from Kuwait were found to be infected with coronavirus. 

In a bit of happier news in Asia, a Bali zoo named a newborn giraffe after the virus. 

"Corona is healthy and is still breastfeeding. We'll keep her under observation for three months," said zoo spokesman Anak Agung Ngurah Alit Sujana.

But visitors will have to wait to meet the young calf, as the zoo remains closed to the public. — with AFP bureaus

LOCKDOWNS NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: December 3, 2020 - 7:15pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

December 3, 2020 - 7:15pm

Iran on Thursday surpasses one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, the health ministry says in the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic.

The Islamic republic has recorded 1,003,494 coronavirus infections since announcing its first cases in February, ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says on state television.

The virus has claimed a total of 49,348 lives in Iran, according to official figures, which even the health minister acknowledges fall short of the true number due to screening protocol issues. —  AFP

December 3, 2020 - 4:14pm

The Department of Health confirms 1,061 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national tally to 435,413.

Of the confirmed cases, 27,642 are active. There are 10 more deaths and 328 new recoveries.

December 3, 2020 - 11:33am

The US death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 2,700 in one day as of Wednesday evening, the highest since April, Johns Hopkins University says.

The new tally of 2,731 fatalities raises the overall known death toll in America to 273,181 since the pandemic started late last year. 

The number of new infections over the past 24 hours was 195,121, the university says.  — AFP

December 3, 2020 - 9:54am

A monitor says the number of people being treated in US hospitals for COVID-19 topped 100,000 for the first time on Wednesday.

"There are 100,226 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US  -- the first time hospitalizations have exceeded 100k," the COVID Tracking Project says in a tweet. — AFP 

December 2, 2020 - 4:13pm

The Department of Health reports 1,438 additional cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the total number of COVID-19 infections in the Philippines to 434,357.

Of these, 26,916 are active cases. There are 18 new fatalities and 232 more recoveries.

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