Coronavirus: Global cases near 3m as some countries begin to ease lockdown

World round-up: New Zealand lifts level-4 lockdown; Russian cases exceed China’s

Residents of, Igualada, Catalonia - the first town in Spain to be sealed off due to Covid-19 - have been allowed out for the first time in 45 days. However, families must maintain social distancing at all times. Video: Reuters


Global coronavirus cases are now nearing the 3 million mark, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 2,971,669 confirmed. At least 206,549 people have died of the disease.

Some countries are now easing strict lockdown conditions as the world continues to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

As countries weigh up the risk of a fresh wave of virus cases against the need to kick-start their economies, here is the status in several nations:

New Zealand

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said the country has stopped the “widespread, undetected community transmission” of Covid-19, as tough lockdown restrictions are scheduled to ease on Monday night. Ms Ardern said New Zealand had “avoided the worst” in the pandemic, but must continue to fight the virus.

At midnight on Monday (1pm Irish time), New Zealand lifted its level-4 lockdown which has been in place for more than four weeks. New Zealand has 1,456 confirmed cases and 17 deaths. Ms Ardern warned that in level-3 there were new risks - namely people coming into more contact with others. It is expected one million New Zealanders will return to work on Tuesday.


More than a million people have downloaded a smartphone app designed to accelerate contact tracing for coronavirus, despite some privacy concerns.

Government officials intend to rush legislation through parliament to outlaw the use of collected data for purposes other than tracing people who might have Covid-19.

Officials have also promised to release the app’s source code within two weeks so that independent analysts can better understand its privacy implications.

The government says at least 40 per cent of the Australian population needs to take up the technology, based on Singapore’s TraceTogether app, for it to be effective.

The government hopes the app will enable Australia to safely reopen the economy by enabling health officials to quickly identify and contain new outbreaks.

Australia will resume non-urgent surgeries this week for the first time since March 27th as confidence grows that hospitals will not be overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.

A man runs past a tree with a face mask and eyes stapled to it in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday. Photograph: Scott Barbour/EPA
A man runs past a tree with a face mask and eyes stapled to it in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday. Photograph: Scott Barbour/EPA


There were some encouraging signs for Italy as it recorded the lowest 24-hour number of deaths since mid-March, with 260.

Seven weeks into a strict lockdown, premier Giuseppe Conte has laid out a timetable for getting back to normal.

He announced that factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures in place against the virus.

Mr Conte also said that starting from May 4th, parks and gardens will reopen, funerals will be allowed, athletes can resume training, and people will be able to visit relatives living in the same region.

If all goes well, stores and museums will reopen on May 18th, with restaurants, cafes and salons to follow on June 1st.

Schools will not re-open until September. Italy’s death toll remains the heaviest in Europe, with more than 26,000 dead and almost 200,000 confirmed cases of the disease. But the number of new cases has been slowing and the number of patients in intensive care has been falling steadily.

The French and Spanish governments will on Tuesday outline detailed plans to ease their lockdowns . On Sunday, France reported the smallest rise in deaths linked to the coronavirus since March 25th and the amount of Covid-19 patients in intensive care decreased. Deaths rose by 242 to 22,856, according to figures provided by the Health Ministry on Sunday. The number of new cases increased by 1,129 to 191,743.

Spain recorded 331 new deaths in the past 24 hours, up from Sunday’s 288. The total death toll stands on Monday over 23,500, while the number of infections is over 200,000, according to the latest count of the health ministry, which records only cases confirmed through lab tests. Children went outside on Sunday, emerging from their homes for the first time after six weeks of living under one of Europe’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns.

In the UK, Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson, back at work on Monday after being hospitalised with the disease, said the UK was beginning to “turn the tide” against cornonavirus that his government would outline plans for an easing of the coronavirus lockdown in the coming days but warned that there would be difficult judgments required. The official number of deaths related to Covid-19 in hospitals across the United Kingdom rose to 20,732, up by 413 in 24 hours, while confirmed cases stood at 152,840, up by 4,463.

Germany’s economy minister urged its 16 states on Monday to reopen slowly. As the number of new infections has fallen, many businesses like smaller stores or car dealerships have been allowed to reopen and some students are returning to schools.

Romania’s president says the country’s pre-schools, schools and universities will remain closed until the end of the school year. Distance learning will continue until the mid-June summer break.

Romania’s state of emergency because of the new coronavirus pandemic is currently scheduled to be in place until May 15.

Romania has reported 11,339 coronavirus cases and 631 deaths.

Public transport has resumed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb as authorities launched a phased easing of measures against the new coronavirus.

Loosening of some rules designed to curb the outbreak is accompanied by strict respect of social distancing measures and the use of protective gear and disinfectants.

In previous weeks, public transport lines were restricted.

In Norway, children returned to school on Monday while the country’s health and culture ministers went for haircuts as salons reopened.

Prime minister Erna Solberg watched students return to classes at the Ellingsrudaasen school in Oslo.

Tattoo parlours and beauty salons through Norway also reopened on Monday.

Joan (45), chases his daughters Ines (11) and Mar (9) as they play in the street on Sunday in Barcelona as after six weeks stuck at home, Spain’s children aer now allowed outside. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP
Joan (45), chases his daughters Ines (11) and Mar (9) as they play in the street on Sunday in Barcelona as after six weeks stuck at home, Spain’s children aer now allowed outside. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP

Portugal’s prime minister says authorities are aiming to relax some of the measures devised to stem the spread of the coronavirus next month.

Prime minister Antonio Costa said new rules on self-isolation and going back to work or school will be introduced every two weeks, as their impact is assessed.

The plan is due to be announced on Thursday.

Mr Costa warned the changes do not mean a return to normal and that will only happen once there is a vaccine.

Portugal was quick to enact a lockdown and has reported 903 deaths from Covid-19, far fewer than neighbouring Spain’s more than 23,500.

Greece will announce detailed plans to ease coronavirus-related restrictions on Tuesday but authorities have already promised haircuts will be among the first services available.

Hair salons and barbershops will be included in the first stage of reopening businesses when restrictions begin to ease on May 4th.

A recent opinion poll found that going to the hairdressers was top of Greeks’ post-lockdown wish list, followed by domestic travel, and buying clothes.

Businesses such as hair salons, tattoo parlours, veterinarians’ offices and garden shops are reopening up across Switzerland.

It is part of a multi-tiered reopening as the country gradually eases restrictions.

Requirements from Swiss authorities say businesses must provide individual clients an average of at least 10 square meters in their shops and offices, set up lines outside their buildings and regularly clean their equipment and surfaces.

Service-providers such as barbers and masseurs who come within two meters of customers were advised to wear masks and transparent-plastic face screens, and wash or disinfected hands before and after each client.

Pet-owners were expected to drop off their animals outside the vet offices, only to pick them up after the visits are over.

Schools and a wider array of businesses are to resume operations on May 11, followed by a vastly expanded reopening on June 8.

No date has been set for the resumption of large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts.

Courts of law across Denmark reopened on Monday as the Scandinavian country continued phase one of what it has called a “controlled reopening” of society.

“We are looking forward to coming back to the court rooms but it must be done in a health-responsible way, both for our users and employees,” said Kristian Hertz, head of the Danish Court Administration.

According to the administration’s guidelines, a judge can limit the number of people inside a court room if he or she gauges that there are too many people.

Denmark already has allowed some people back to work, including hairdressers, dentists, tattoo parlours, physiotherapists, among others, and some classes were allowed to return to school.

In the Czech Republic, restrictions are being relaxed, with stores with a surface of up to 2,500 sq m being allowed to open.

Zoos and botanical parks, fitness centres and driving schools are back to business. Public gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed, up from two.

The government rules on social distancing and mandatory face masks remain in place.


Russia reported 6,198 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday versus 6,361 on the previous day, which took the national tally of infections to 87,147. The Russian coronavirus crisis response centre said that 50 more deaths of coronavirus patients were confirmed in the last 24 hours.

In the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, Russia surpassed mainland China, which reported the total of 82,830 cases on Monday.

Manuel Gil (L), owner of the LLenatubar company, makes a mock toast at a table with methacrylate partition walls built and installed by his company in a small restaurant in Leganes near Madrid on Sunday. Photograph: Javi Soriano/AFP via Getty Images
Manuel Gil (L), owner of the LLenatubar company, makes a mock toast at a table with methacrylate partition walls built and installed by his company in a small restaurant in Leganes near Madrid on Sunday. Photograph: Javi Soriano/AFP via Getty Images


The government in South Korea is looking at reopening schools as the number of cases begins to tail off.

Authorities reported 10 new cases on Monday, the 26th straight day where this number has been in double figures.

Using an active test-and-quarantine programme, South Korea has so far managed to slow its outbreak without imposing lockdowns or business bans.

However, schools have been closed, with remote-learning programmes set up in their place.

Prime minster Chung Sye-kyun has ordered education officials to prepare measures to ensure hygiene and enforce distancing between pupils in order for the government to announce a timeline for reopening schools no later than early May.

Authorities in China reported three new cases on Monday and have now gone 12 days without recording a death relating to Covid-19.

The coronavirus outbreak originated from the country, and 723 people remain in hospital suffering from the virus, while a further 1,000 are being kept in isolation.

Beijing added one additional postmortem death to its count, raising China’s overall death toll to 4,633 from 82,830 cases.

Of the new cases, two were imported and one was detected in the province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, according to the National Health Commission.

Singapore, which has one of Asia’s smallest populations, is emerging with the region’s biggest number of coronavirus cases after the world’s two most populous countries. The island-nation reported 931 new cases on Sunday, with the total number of infections exceeding 13,600, overtaking Japan. Only China and India have more cases in Asia. The majority of infections remains among migrant workers living in close quarters in dormitories, presenting a major setback to its early success in containing the spread of the virus. Its citizens and permanent residents made up just 15 of the new cases, the government said in a statement Sunday.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has said the month-long ongoing lockdown has yielded positive results and that the country has managed to save “thousands of lives”.

India last week eased the lockdown by allowing shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming activities to resume in rural areas to help millions of poor, daily-wage earners. But the economic costs of the nationwide lockdown continue to mount in a country of 1.3 billion people.

Mr Modi, who put India under a strict lockdown on March 25th, did not say if the lockdown restrictions will extend after May 3rd. India has confirmed over 27,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 872 deaths.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said his country is adding 14 more countries, including Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia, to the entry ban list as the country steps up border controls, with infections continuing to spread.

Japan has already banned entry from more than 70 other countries, banning foreigners with records of visiting those countries in the past two weeks, while invalidating visas for the rest of the world.

The additional step regarding the 14 countries will take effect on Wednesday, Mr Abe said.

The entry ban and the visa restrictions, initially set to end on April 30th, are extended until the end of May.

Japan is under a month-long state of emergency due to last until May 6th. Officials and experts are gauging its effect and considering whether to extend the measure.

In Thailand, the government is considering easing some restrictions.

State planning agencies said a proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet on Tuesday for easing restrictions.

Measures currently in place include a nationwide 10pm-4am curfew, the closure of malls, and restaurants being restricted to takeaway and home delivery services. A ban on incoming international commercial passenger flights was extended on Monday through to the end of May.

A state of emergency will be extended through to May, allowing the government to continue implementing measures outside the normal legal framework to combat Covid-19.

Pakistan’s ban on international and domestic air travel has been extended until May 25th.

Even as the numbers of confirmed cases continue a steady upward climb, Pakistan’s Prime minister Imran Khan has refused to close mosques in the country during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, leaving it to clerics to enforce social distancing.

North America

In the United States, governors in states including hard-hit New York and Michigan are keeping stay-at-home restrictions in place until at least mid-May, while their counterparts in places such as Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska are allowing certain businesses to reopen. The split in approaches to reopening states has often been along partisan lines.

Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, told Fox News that with hospital admissions dropping in his state, he will reopen churches and restaurant dining on Friday, with social-distancing guidelines in place.

However, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told ABC that her state is not ready and needs more robust testing, community tracing and a plan for isolating people who get sick.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported 928,619 cases of new coronavirus, an increase of 32,853 cases from its previous count, and said the number of deaths had risen by 2,020 to 52,459.

In Canada, Quebec’s premier says primary schools and nurseries outside the greater Montreal area will reopen on May 11 despite the fact his province has the worst outbreak in Canada.

Francois Legault said facilities in greater Montreal will reopen the next week, on May 19. He said attendance will not be mandatory, but he is reopening schools for social and educational reasons.

Mr Legault said high schools, junior colleges and universities will remain closed until September. He is urging those institutions to do as much online teaching as possible.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government is working on a detailed plan to ease restrictions, but warned that weekend lockdowns are likely to continue until after the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in May.

In a televised address following a weekly cabinet meeting, he said this week’s curfew will start on Friday May 1st, which is Labour Day – a public holiday in Turkey.

The vice president will evaluate recommendations from the country’s Covid-19 advisory council to decide “which steps will be taken in which fields and on which date”, Mr Erdogan said. – Agencies

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