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.
The number of people from Hong Kong applying for residency in Taiwan last year rose 41 percent from a year earlier to 5,858, National Immigration Agency statistics showed. The statistics also showed that 600 applications were filed by Hong Kong residents in the first quarter of this year — three times the number filed in the same period last year — with applicants apparently not deterred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just one day after it was reported that the Chinese government plans to enact new national security laws in Hong Kong, inquiries regarding immigration to Taiwan grew 10-fold, a Hong Kong-based immigration
‘BEGINNING OF THE END’: Democracy advocate Joshua Wong urged Hong Kongers to stand up and fight, and let the Chinese government know that they will not cave Hong Kong protesters yesterday battled with riot police in busy downtown areas, showing their opposition toward China’s dramatic move to crack down on dissent in the biggest demonstration since the coronavirus swept through the territory in January. Police deployed a water cannon and fired tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after hundreds of protesters had gathered to oppose new national security legislation from China. Police warned the crowd they were taking part in an illegal gathering, and later said in a statement that “rioters threw umbrellas, water bottles and other objects at them.” At least 120 people were arrested,
‘TAIWAN IS SAFE’: As there have been no new local cases for 42 days, people should feel free to travel around the nation — as long as they follow disease prevention rules No new cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday and only 20 of the people hospitalized after testing positive are still being treated in hospitals, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) as he promoted a “new disease prevention lifestyle” for the nation. As yesterday was the 42nd consecutive day with no new domestic cases, and experts consider 28 consecutive days with no domestic case — the span of two incubation periods — a sign that a community is relatively safe, Taiwan is safe, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC),
SMOOTHER TRANSIT: Japan Airlines reportedly planned to land the flight at Haneda Airport, but changed it to Narita for direct flights to Taiwan The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday thanked Japan for allowing 94 Taiwanese on a chartered plane evacuating others stranded in Russia, where COVID-19 cases are rising and many international flights have been canceled. Ninety-four Taiwanese exchange students and expats, as well as two Russian spouses, arrived at Narita International Airport in Japan yesterday morning on a charter flight operated by Japan Airlines, before taking a transfer flight to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport last night, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said. As of press time last night, Russia had reported more than 362,000 cases of COVID-19, including more than 3,800 deaths. The government had