COVID-19 Cases

Some countries open COVID-19 lockdowns, but the United Kingdom does not yet say

Image:-UK Premier Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street after recovery from coronavirus

Countries from Italy to New Zealand announced that coronavirus lockdowns would be lightened, but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, back at work on Monday after being hospitalized with the disease, said it was too early to relax restrictions.

Nearly 3 million people worldwide were infected with coronavirus, and 205,948 died, according to an official Reuters tally of figures. But many countries seek to ease the lockdowns as infection rates fall and economic ruin fears rise.

The worst pandemic in the world in a century, which began in China in December before creeping around the globe, has forced a dilemma upon governments. For weeks on end, people co-opted in their homes are growing frustrated and anxious about what the future holds.

And with economic activity severely curtailed from shops and bars to factories and tourism, many countries are forecasting prolonged recessions.

But with no antidote yet found for the coronavirus, leaders are also acutely aware that a second wave of infections could sweep across their country just as life returns to some sort of normality.

Italy, which has the world's third highest coronavirus death rate at more than 26,000, will allow factories and building sites to reopen from May 4 and allow limited family visits as it prepares a staged end to the longest coronavirus lockdown in Europe, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Sunday.

Italy is looking ahead to a second phase of the crisis in which it will try to relaunch the economy without triggering a new wave of infections.

"We expect the challenge to be very complex," Conte said. "We will live with the virus and we will have to take every possible precaution." This week, for the first time in more than a month, New Zealanders will be able to go fishing, surfing, hunting and hiking, as it begins to ease its way out of a strict lockdown.

Approximately 400,000 people return to work after Monday's country shifts its alert level down a notch at midnight but shops and restaurants will remain closed.

New Zealand's 5 million residents were subjected to one of the world's most stringent lockdowns, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern closing offices, schools, bars and restaurants on March 26, including take-off and delivery services.

In Norway, first- to fourth-grade school children returned to school for the first time since mid-March, while a range of small businesses, including hairdressers, were allowed to open.

"I feel like a burden has been lifted," said 36-year-old artist Abi Qadar, after dropping his seven-year-old daughter at school in central Oslo. "It was tough." On Monday, Germany's finance minister urged its 16 states to reopen slowly. As the number of new infections has dropped, many businesses have been allowed to reopen such as smaller stores or car dealerships and some students are returning to schools.


In Spain, one of the worst-hit countries, on Sunday, children went out, emerging for the first time from their homes after six weeks of living under one of Europe's most stringent coronavirus lockdown.

Israel allowed some businesses to reopen on Sunday and said it was considering letting kids back to school.

Croatia began to loosen curbs on Monday, allowing reopening of smaller shops, libraries and museums. Serbia allowed the opening of its shutters for small businesses and food markets, eased an overnight curfew and allowed the elderly to venture outside three times a week.

Romania said that it would not extend the current state of emergency by May 15, when people can move around with documentation.

British Prime Minister Johnson, 55, speaking a month and a day from testing positive for the virus outside his Downing Street residence, compared the disease to a street criminal wrestled to the ground by the British people.

Johnson, who spent three nights in intensive care at a London public hospital, said he understood business concerns and would consult with opposition parties-but he made it clear that the lockdown was not to be lifted swiftly.

"If we can show the same spirit of unity and determination that we have all shown in the past six weeks, then I have absolutely no doubt that we are going to beat it," he says.

But he said the government would outline plans in the coming days to ease curbs.

In the U.S., which has recorded the highest infection and death tolls in the world, critics have accused President Donald Trump of mixed and confusing messages about the coronavirus as states bickered with the White House on how to handle the outbreak and when to reopen the economy.

Georgia, Oklahoma and several other states took tentative steps, despite disapproval from Trump and medical experts, to restart business on Friday.

A health official said the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated in December, now has no remaining cases at its hospitals. Despite relaxing its lockdown, the town continues to test residents regularly.

Nearly two million Australians rushed to download an app designed to help medical workers and government track close contacts with COVID-19 patients, while the approval rating of Prime Minister Scott Morrison soared upon his pandemic response.

Australia was one of the most successful countries in combating the coronavirus pandemic, recording only 83 deaths and 6,700 cases due to border closures, restrictions on movement and a policy of stay-at-home. It has lowered the growth rate of the daily infection to less than 1 percent, down from March's 25 percent.