President Donald Trump pressed for a further reopening as job losses mount from coronavirus in the USA, while China’s premier warned of “immense” economic challenges even as the Asian giant emerges from the worst of the pandemic.
Calls to kickstart the world’s two largest economies came as large parts of Europe continued to resume normal life as the crisis there abates, with more shops opening and beaches welcoming tourists.
But the lifting of restrictions in some places comes despite virus cases passing five million globally, with the disease continuing its march in Latin America and Russia.
Trump, with an eye on his re-election prospects in November, made it clear he hoped more US state governors would move towards a loosening restrictions associated with coronavirus in USA.
“We did the right thing but we now want to get going… you’ll break the country if you don’t,” he told African-American leaders in Michigan.
A country on its knees: Coronavirus in USA
Another 2.43 million Americans were put out of work last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, bringing the total of newly jobless to 38.6 million since lockdowns were put in place. All of this is a result of coronavirus in USA.
The Republican incumbent also talked about reopening places of worship, something he had initially hoped would be done by Easter Sunday, saying it was important to the nation’s healing.
“People want to be in their churches,” Trump said. “They’re so important in terms of the psyche of our country.”
President Trump on coronavirus test today: "I tested very positively, in another sense, this morning. I tested positively toward negative, right? No, I tested perfectly this morning — meaning I tested negative. But that's a way of saying it: positively toward the negative." pic.twitter.com/UsqHLfDAAQ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 21, 2020
The president has adopted the theme of “Transitioning Back to Greatness” as states reopen at different speeds.
Deaths are still mounting in the US, with the total surpassing 94,000, and Trump ordered flags at federal buildings be flown at half-staff for three days for the victims.
Europe: A return to normal or clam before the storm?
Across the Atlantic, much of Europe pressed on with work to get life rolling again, with Cyprus lifting curfews and allowing outdoor restaurants, barber shops and beaches to reopen.
But the Mediterranean island’s airports and hotels remain closed.
“I want my work back and my life back,” said Sakis Siakopoulos, a restaurant owner in the capital Nicosia.
In Denmark, the exit from lockdown also picked up pace as museums and zoos began reopening and health officials said the spread of the virus was slowing.
France, one of the countries hit hardest by the outbreak, saw its daily death toll dip to 83, providing a cause for optimism.
A closely watched survey by IHS Markit indicated the eurozone economy has now “likely bottomed out”, sparking hope that a recovery is to follow.
Latin America: the new coronavirus incubator?
But while many European countries have significantly curbed the contagion, Latin America is becoming a new hotspot with cases on the rise.
Brazil — now home to the third-highest number of cases in the world after the US and Russia — has recorded more than 20,000 deaths and hit a record 24-hour toll of 1,188.
Grave diggers at a cemetery outside Sao Paulo are scrambling to keep up.
“We’ve been working 12-hour days, burying them one after the other. It doesn’t stop,” said one worker at Vila Formosa, wearing a white protective suit, mask and face shield.
Peru, Mexico and Chile have also seen steady increases in infections.
“It’s like a horror film,” Miguel Armas, a nurse at the Hipolito Unanue hospital in the Peruvian capital, told AFP.
The death toll worldwide has now surpassed 330,000, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
US/China continue trading barbs
Recriminations over the pandemic have continued to fly between the United States and China — where the outbreak first erupted last year — with Trump blaming Beijing’s “incompetence” for the extent of the global crisis.
China has rejected that criticism, insisting it has been forthright with the world about the origins of the virus and its work to tackle its spread.
“It is neither responsible nor moral to cover up one’s own problems by blaming others,” said Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for China’s legislature.
On Friday Chinese Premier Li Keqiang took the rare step of not setting an annual economic growth target for the country in light of the “great uncertainty” created by the pandemic.
At the opening of the National People’s Congress he only said Beijing will “give priority to stabilising employment and ensuring living standards”.
“At present, the epidemic has not yet come to an end, while the tasks we face in promoting development are immense,” he said.
Virus cases in the Asian giant are now down to a trickle, and Beijing insists its efforts to curb the spread have been a success, but questions remain about whether it underreported the numbers affected by the contagion.
Second surge of virus feared over the long term
Governments around the world are testing ways to live long- term with the threat of the virus amid fears of a second wave of infections.
Already a common sight in Spain, masks were officially made mandatory Thursday for anyone over the age of six in public places where social distancing is not possible.
“The more tools we use, the better,” said Miguel Domingo, a 49-year-old architect taking his two dogs for a walk in Madrid, which is emerging from one of the toughest lockdowns.
Meanwhile, China faces a potential second wave of coronavirus infections due to a lack of immunity among its population, its government’s senior medical advisor has warned.
After months of lockdowns and curbs on travel China has largely brought the virus under control, but fears of a second wave have risen as clusters have emerged in northeast provinces and in the central city of Wuhan.
“The majority of… Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity,” Zhong Nanshan, the public face of government’s response to the pandemic, told CNN.
“We are facing (a) big challenge,” Zhong added. “It’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”
Coronavirus in the USA: The situation so far
As of today, the global number of people infected by the Novel Coronavirus and suffering from the associated diseases COVID-19 has crossed 1.61 million. There have been 95,000 deaths associated with the disease. A statistic to take heart from is the fact that 308,000 people suffering from COVID-19 have recovered.
COVID-19 associated lockdowns have caused a slowdown in the US economy, with jobless claims going through the roof. Estimates of recovery do not show it recovering before 2022.