Britain on Tuesday became the first country in Europe to confirm more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths, and infections rose sharply again in Russia, even as other nations made great strides in containing the scourge. China marked its third week with no new reported deaths, while South Korea restarted its baseball season.
The app, which warns people if they have been near an infected individual, is being tested on the Isle of Wight, off England’s southern coast. The government hopes it can be rolled out across the country later this month.
Uncertainty across Europe as Germany warns of second wave
In Russia, the number of infections rose sharply again, with Moscow reporting more than 10,000 new cases for three days in a row.
At the same time, many European countries that have relaxed strict lockdowns after new infections tapered off were watching their virus numbers warily.
“We know with great certainty that there will be a second wave – the majority of scientists are sure of that. And many also assume that there will be a third wave,” said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s national disease control centre.
French President Emmanuel Macron took heat from parents, teachers and mayors, who pushed back against his plans to gradually reopen schools next week with classes capped at 15 students.
More than 300 mayors in the capital region, including Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, urged Macron in an open letter to delay the reopening of primary schools scheduled for next week.
They denounced an “untenable and unrealistic timetable” to meet the sanitary and safety conditions required by the state, including class sizes capped to a maximum of 15. The majority of French children attend public schools.
Scientists in France released a study saying they may have identified a possible case of the coronavirus dating back to December, about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe. Outside experts said the study was interesting but not conclusive.
An ‘experiment’ for Italy
Italy this week allowed 4.4 million people to go back to work and eased restrictions on personal movement for the first time in two months.
The coming weeks are essentially an “experiment” to see how the infection curve reacts to the easing of the West’s first lockdown, the head of infectious diseases at Italy’s Superior Institute of Health told the La Repubblica newspaper.
“We are not out of the epidemic. We are still in it,” said Dr. Giovanni Rezza. “I don’t want people to think there’s no more risk and we go back to normal.”
The South Korea success story
Widely seen as a success story, South Korea reported only three new cases of the virus, its lowest total since February 18. Schools will reopen in phases starting with high school seniors on May 13, but the highlight Tuesday was the baseball season, which began with no spectators allowed.
Cheerleaders danced beneath rows of empty seats, and umpires wore face masks as one of the world’s first major professional sports returned to action in games broadcast around the globe. Players and coaches were subjected to fever screenings before entering stadiums.
With major league baseball in the US still mulling plans on what to do about its own season, American sports network ESPN signed a contract to broadcast six South Korean games per week, starting with Tuesday’s season opener. The country’s professional soccer leagues will kick off Friday, also without spectators.
US starts lifting restrictions as deaths continue to rise
Several states have been moving to relax restrictions even as daily new infections in the US exceed 20,000 and daily deaths are well over 1000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Underscoring the stakes, New York state reported 1700 more people died in nursing homes than it had previously counted.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the national debate over when to reopen outbreak-ravaged economies ultimately boils down to the value placed on people’s lives.
“How much is a human life worth?” Cuomo asked at his daily press briefing.
“That’s the real discussion that no one is admitting openly or freely. But we should.”
President Donald Trump headed for Arizona to visit a Honeywell factory that makes respirator masks, in what could be a return to more regular travel for the president.
“The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. Our country has to open,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One.
Promising signs across Asia-Pacific region
In China, it has been three weeks since any new deaths have been reported in the country where the pandemic began late last year. Just one new case of infection was confirmed, and fewer than 400 patients are still being treated for COVID-19, health officials said.
Other places in the Asia-Pacific region have also suppressed outbreaks, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, which has reported no new cases for two days.
But experts said India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, has yet to see the peak of its outbreak.
After India relaxed some lockdown restrictions on Monday, thousands of people turned up at liquor stores without following social distancing recommendations. Police used batons to disperse the crowds. On Tuesday, Indian authorities imposed a special tax of 70 per cent on liquor purchases.
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