Nations yesterday tried to balance how far to ease COVID-19 lockdowns, with Germany enforcing the mandatory wearing of masks in shops, as the crushing global economic cost of the pandemic became clearer.
Excitement over moves toward normality was being tempered by fear of fresh outbreaks of a disease that has killed more than 217,000 people worldwide and infected more than 3.1 million.
With predictions of the worst recession in a century, the world was anxiously looking to the US, where the first economic growth figures from the pandemic era were due to be published and the death toll exceeded that from the Vietnam War.
From yesterday in Germany, masks were needed to enter shops, which began to open last week after the government declared its outbreak under control.
Nose and mouth coverings were already compulsory on buses, trains and trams.
“I think it’s great. It’s the right thing,” said Heike Menzel, 54, who was stacking shelves in a Bio Company supermarket, wearing a simple black fabric mask. “You’re protecting others, and you’re not exactly protecting yourself, but you still feel a bit safer.”
However, the German government extended a warning against travel worldwide to the middle of June, spelling more bad news for a global aviation industry that has been forced to cut tens of thousands of jobs.
Italy, Spain and France have been the worst affected European nations, with each reporting more than 23,000 deaths, but daily tolls appear to be on a downward trend and they are all charting their way out of lockdown.
Spain yesterday reported a slight increase in its daily death toll from COVID-19, but the government is moving toward a transition out of lockdown by the end of June, having allowed children out at the weekend for the first time in six weeks.
Spaniards have increasingly embraced home workouts as they wait for a return to something approaching normality.
“It’s very motivating because we can see each other, talk,” said Ivan Lopez, 45, a Madrid teacher who has been using the Zoom app for workout sessions with his running group. “We completely disconnect from reality, which is very complicated at the moment.”
The UK still lacked a plan to exit lockdown, but just weeks after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was celebrating yesterday after becoming a father when his partner, Carrie Symonds, gave birth to a boy.
The pressure to ease lockdowns is immense as the world economy teeters on the brink of a huge depression, with demand for goods gutted, travel and tourism hammered, and big banks reporting deep falls in quarterly profits.
With warnings mounting of a meat shortage in the US, the White House said that US President Donald Trump would sign an executive order compelling meat-packing plants to stay open, despite a string of coronavirus deaths in the industry.
The US has reported its 1 millionth coronavirus case and at more than 58,000 the country’s COVID-19 death toll is by far the world’s highest — surpassing the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s.
In Lebanon there were more signs of a deepening crisis, with protesters confronting troops in defiance of a nationwide lockdown, complaining that they could no longer feed their families.
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