Beaches in France and Italy were yesterday open for the first weekend since the easing of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hunt for a vaccine for a disease that the WHO has said might never disappear has threatened to become a source of tension between the globe’s haves and have-nots, with trials underway in various countries.
Many governments are not waiting, with borders and beaches reopening across Europe after two traumatic months in which life ground to a halt.
Russia pushed ahead with plans to ease restrictions, despite reporting more than 10,000 new cases, with its soccer league set to return next month and thousands of people being tested for antibodies to show whether they have had the virus.
Slovenia on Friday became the first European country to open its borders, despite new infections still being reported.
In northeast Europe, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were creating their own “Baltic bubble” allowing free movement among the three countries.
France called for self-restraint as the country prepared for its first weekend since easing its lockdown, warning that police would break up any large gatherings.
Several nations have eased restrictions to stem the economic damage from lockdowns, as much of the world learns to live as best it can under the shadow of the disease that has killed more than 306,000 people globally and infected 4.5 million.
With the European summer fast approaching, the key tourism industry is trying to salvage something from the wreckage.
Parasols and sun loungers were starting to appear on coastlines in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
“It moves me to see these sunshades,” said Simone Battistoni, whose family has been running the Bagno Milano beach concession in Cesenatico on Italy’s east coast since 1927.
Austria took an important symbolic step on Friday by reopening its restaurants and traditional Viennese cafes.
“We missed it and we’re going to come back as much as possible,” said Fanny and Sophie, 19-year-old students waiting for breakfast at a cafe in the Austrian capital.
Ireland is to begin to lift its lockdown in the coming days while introducing a 14-day quarantine period for new arrivals.
The pressure to ease lockdowns has mounted as the catastrophic economic effects of the novel coronavirus have become clearer.
In the US, the world’s worst-affected country with more than 87,000 deaths and 1.4 million cases, industrial production last month plunged 11.2 percent, the largest drop in a century.
Department store JCPenney, a retail institution that has not turned a profit since 2011, on Friday became the latest US business to file for bankruptcy.
With 36.5 million Americans — more than 10 percent of the population — now out of work, US President Donald Trump has been keen to ease lockdown measures as he seeks re-election in November.
Meanwhile, Europe’s top economy, Germany, tipped into recession, suffering its steepest quarterly contraction since the global financial crisis in 2009.
The pandemic has also caused political ructions.
Brazil lost its second health minister in a month when Nelson Teich on Friday resigned over what an official said was “incompatibility” with right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s approach to fighting the country’s spiraling COVID-19 crisis.
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