Covid-19 wrap | Lockdown restrictions ease, UN warns on workers safety and cases top three million

2020-04-28 07:56

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

FOLLOW THE LIVE UPDATE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates

Europe eyes relaxing virus lockdowns

Several European nations and a handful of US states began taking steps on Monday to reboot economies abruptly shut down by the coronavirus pandemic which has caused more than 200 000 deaths around the globe.

But as schools and shops reopened in some parts of Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerged after his own battle with the virus to call for patience in the UK, saying it was too early to follow suit.

Around the world the pandemic has killed more than 208 000 people and infected nearly three million, with the highest death toll - over 55 000 - in the United States.

Well over half of all deaths are in Europe, with the toll hitting 126 000 on the continent on Monday.

With some of Europe's worst-hit nations reporting drops in daily death counts, governments are exploring how to relax confinement orders exacting their own damaging economic and psychological tolls.

Italy, the first European country to go into lockdown seven weeks ago, began allowing some construction and factory workers to go back to work on Monday.

Starting on 4 May, Italians will be able to exercise outdoors and visit relatives, but only if they respect social distancing and wear masks.

Restaurants can offer takeout and wholesale stores can resume business on the same day, with other shops following on 18 May, along with museums and libraries.


Lockdown relaxation in the US

A few US states have begun to ease lockdown restrictions, even as the country reports 1 303 more novel coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, according to figures reported late on Monday by the Johns Hopkins University.

The moves come amid warnings of inadequate testing capacity.

A majority of US states do not yet have sufficient Covid-19 testing to consider relaxing stay-at-home orders, according to an analysis by Harvard researchers and the health news site Stat.

While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sketched out plans to resume some manufacturing and construction activity in low-risk parts of the state on 15 May, other conservative-led states are speeding up the timeline.

Rejecting the advice of health experts, Georgia has allowed thousands of businesses to resume operations.

Tennessee allowed restaurants to reopen on Monday, and retail stores reopened in Mississippi and Montana on Monday. Oklahoma will let restaurants and cinemas reopen from May,

Texas said retail stores, restaurants, movie theatres, and malls can reopen on 1 May but must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy.

Plans to ease restrictions have been met with both fear and impatience from citizens facing a deeply uncertain future.

Forecasts warn of the worst global recession in a century, with oil prices tumbling and the travel and tourism sector badly hammered.


UN tells firms to make worker returns safe as lockdowns ease

As some countries begin to ease their lockdown restrictions, governments and employers must prepare workplaces and ensure people can return safely to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19, the UN said Tuesday.

In a new study, the International Labour Organisation stressed the importance of ensuring that workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria before allowing people to return to their jobs, in order to minimise their exposure to the novel coronavirus.

"Without such controls, countries face the very real risk of a resurgence of the virus," the United Nations agency said in a statement.

The ILO's report comes as a number of European countries are beginning to gingerly scale back lockdown measures, and as authorities in China, which began loosening restrictions last month, fear a second Covid-19 wave could be looming.

The report stressed that by putting in place a range of measures, employers can minimise the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace.

"The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount," ILO chief Guy Ryder said in the statement.

"In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves," he stressed.

"It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities, ensure work continuity and economic survival."


Surf's up: Sydney reopens its famous Bondi Beach

Hundreds of Sydney-siders rushed into the waves at the city's famous Bondi Beach on Tuesday as Australia took the first steps in easing coronavirus restrictions.

Dozens of eager surfers jumped railings and hit the water even before the beach officially opened at 07:00, five weeks after police sealed the area off because of large crowds ignoring social distancing orders.

More swimmers and boarders lined up patiently and cheered as council workers moved fences aside to allow them through.

Although there were large numbers in the sea, the sand remained largely empty as people are still barred from sunbathing or gathering on the shore.

"Surf and go" signs urged people to move on when they had finished in the water.

The reopening of Bondi and a couple of neighbouring beaches came as several of Australia's states began slowly easing restrictions on public gatherings, spurred by a slowing of confirmed coronavirus cases around the country.

New South Wales signalled on Tuesday that it would follow other moves in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory in easing social distancing measures by allowing two visitors into people's homes in the state.

"Please, please do that responsibility, we trust everybody to do it responsibly; don't take risks," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said about the easing - which comes into effect on Friday.

"We don't want to see the numbers suddenly spike up."

She also cautioned that increased activity, including the return of schools and the reopening of some shops, would cause infections to rise but the health system was ready to cope.

Despite the early fence-hoppers, most people at Bondi Beach appeared to be embracing the added freedoms while sticking to distancing guidelines.


Virus lockdowns begin to ease, cases top three million

Confirmed coronavirus cases have now topped three million worldwide, as hard-hit France and Spain were on Tuesday set to detail their exit strategies from lockdowns imposed to stem the spread of the deadly disease.

As countries begin to chart their path out of shutdowns, US President Donald Trump said the devastating pandemic could have been "stopped at the source" by China, suggesting the United States may seek damages.

More than 209 000 people have been killed around the world by Covid-19, a quarter of them in the US.

US status:

Easing of lockdowns in a Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Montana.

Plans to ease restrictions have been met with both fear and impatience from citizens facing a deeply uncertain future.


From next week, Italians will be able to exercise outdoors and visit relatives - but only if they wear masks and refrain from hugs and handshakes.

Some construction and factory workers are allowed to return to work.


Lockdown restrictions eased.


The country has begun a three-phased plan in which florists, dentists and others went back to work.

United Kingdom:

UK Prime Minister Boris has said it's too early to ease restrictions in the country, adding he could not "throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak".

Johnson had a personal battle with Covid-19.

New Zealand:

New Zealanders can now enjoy fast food which was banned for five weeks under lockdown regulations.

"We see the difference in other countries and I don't envy them, that's for sure," said Wellington resident Cheryl Robertson, who planned to celebrate with a curry.


People in Germany are obliged to wear masks on public transport and shops as the country eased some lockdown restrictions.

"It's warm, slippery, you can't breathe well, but if it's to avoid infection, I'm fine with it," said Emil, a commuter at a Berlin train station.

There were small but regular protests against the lockdown in Germany.


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