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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Opening of coronavirus lockdown: Europe, USA reopen amid record toll

Europe and the United States moved toward opening of coronavirus lockdowns to inject life back into the economy. Workers around the world have seen their finances go awry because of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, and are eager to get back to work. Meanwhile, the global death toll has passed 360,000, with South America recording record figures.

The death toll from the coronavirus spiked again in the United States, and Latin America’s pandemic crisis deepened, as Europe’s re-opening from coronavirus lockdown grew bolder by the day.

Grim figures from the Americas were accompanied by the growing economic fallout, with the number of people filing unemployment claims in the US reaching 40 million, and Brazil shedding five million jobs.

Europe presses on with opening of coronavirus lockdown 

But Europe pressed on with efforts to return to normality, with the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A  unveiling plans to resume play.

Populations are learning to adjust to life with the long-term threat of infection as the virus continues its march around the globe and a vaccine remains elusive.

Seeking to stem the bleeding, Europe has been carefully moving ahead with the lifting of restrictions on daily life, with France set to reopen bars, restaurants and museums next week and Britain sending children back to school over the next two weeks.

Experts have stressed upon a rational approach to reopening, underscoring the fact that a reopening is safe only when people take care and follow SOPs

“Freedom will be the rule and restrictions the exception,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spaniards were revisiting old joys as life gets back on track — with people seen belting out tunes from classic movie “Grease” at a 1950s-themed drive-in theatre in Madrid.

“It gives you a real sense of freedom. We really wanted to get out of the house,” said 22-year-old Belen Perez.

Spain will allow 70 percent of the population to go to restaurants, swimming pools and shopping centres from next week.

South American death toll breaks records

The urgency was underlined by ballooning death tolls in South America, increasingly the new focus of the pandemic, where Brazil recorded more than 1,000 fatalities and a national one-day record for infections.

Chile also logged a record daily death toll Thursday and in Peru total fatalities topped 4,000.

With limited sanitation and little space for social distancing, millions of people in slums across the region cannot take basic precautions recommended by health authorities and have little to fall back on when lockdowns destroy jobs.

“We are construction workers, people who sell things, people who go out every day. With confinement everything has changed for most of us. We find ourselves without any work,” Oscar Gonzalez, a 43-year-old welder in the deprived Brisas del Sol area of Santiago, told AFP.

Economic crunch behind opening of coronavirus lockdown 

The economic toll on workers around the world was illustrated further with news that French car giant Renault plans to cut 15,000 jobs as part of a two billion euro cost-cutting drive.

British budget airline EasyJet also said it would axe up to 30 percent of its staff, and Japanese carmaker Nissan reported a huge $6.2 billion annual net loss.

Citizens in the Muslim world have also seen their finances take a hit, with a true manifestation of it witnessed during the recently concluded Eid al-Fitr festival.

In many countries, Muslims steeled themselves for frugal celebrations amid growing financial distress, including falling oil prices that plunged the Gulf region into its worst economic crisis in decades.

Read more: Coronavirus during Eid: The Impact on Celebrations

In the Syrian capital Damascus, Eid shoppers rummaged through flea markets for clothes at bargain prices as the war-ravaged and sanctions-hit country grappled with a much more entrenched economic crisis.

“The flea market is the only place I can buy something new to wear for the Eid holidays,” 28-year-old Sham Alloush said.

“Had it not been for this place, I wouldn’t have been able to buy new clothes at all.”

Coronavirus vaccine: are there any candidates on the horizon?

Pharmaceutical firm bosses expressed optimism a jab could be rolled out by year’s end but warned of “daunting” challenges in producing the 15 billion doses needed to curb the pandemic.

Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine, including 10 candidates that have made it to the clinical trial stage.

“If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can… have a vaccine around the end of October,” said Pfizer boss Albert Bourla.

Second wave of infections feared in many countries

Countries that have seen success in curbing the virus since early outbreaks are now on alert for a second wave of infections, with South Korea and Sri Lanka showing renewed signs of caution.

Read more: China: threatened by a second wave of Corona pandemic?

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

Museums, parks and art galleries were closed again from Friday for two weeks and companies urged to reintroduce flexible working practices. The numbers of children in Seoul schools will also be cut back.

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.

United States continues opening of coronavirus lockdown despite hefty toll

The United States has now seen over 101,000 deaths from the disease.

Read more: Coronavirus in USA: Trump wants reopening

“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.

The US capital Washington will slowly move into its phase one of reopening on Friday as more parts of the country open up the economy, sometimes against the advice of health experts.

Meanwhile US Vice President Joe Biden also addressed the American nation and offered his sympathies to the near ones of everyone who was lost to the virus, promising that “the day will come when the memory of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.”

Coronavirus: The bane of humanity

As of today, the global number of people infected by the Novel Coronavirus and suffering from the associated diseases COVID-19 has crossed 5.8 million. There have been 360,000 deaths associated with the disease. A statistic to take heart from is the fact that 2.4 million people suffering from COVID-19 have recovered since the disease broke out in China in December last year.

COVID-19 associated lockdowns have caused a slowdown in the international economy, with experts saying that it will shrink by as much as 6% this year. Estimates of its recovery do not show it recovering before 2022. The opening of coronavirus lockdowns is heralded as a much needed shot in the arm for the world economy.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk