Health officials have raised concerns over the emergence of further waves of coronavirus as countries begin to ease lockdowns.
In India, which relaxed its restrictions this week, health authorities scrambled to contain an outbreak at a huge market, while hard-hit New York City shut down its subway system overnight for disinfection.
Experts in Italy, which has just started to ease restrictions, warned legislators that a new surge of infections and deaths is coming, and called for intensified efforts to identify victims, monitor their symptoms and trace their contacts.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting with the country’s 16 governors that restaurants and remaining shops will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks, but that restrictions will be reimposed if new infections hit a certain level.
It was also confirmed the Bundesliga football league would resume later this month.
Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at France’s Pasteur Institute, warned: “There will be a second wave, but the problem is to which extent. Is it a small wave or a big wave? It’s too early to say.”
Many areas are still struggling with the first wave. Brazil for the first time locked down a large city, the capital of Maranhao state. Meanwhile the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has risen 42% in the past week. Infections are expected to surpass 50,000.
Analysis by the AP news agency found that US infection rates outside the New York City area are in fact rising, notably in rural areas. It found New York’s progress against the virus was overshadowing increasing infections elsewhere.
“Make no mistakes: this virus is still circulating in our community, perhaps even more now than in previous weeks,” said Linda Ochs, director of the Health Department in Shawnee County, Kansas.
The virus is known to have infected more than 3.6 million and killed more than 251,000 people, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins.
The US has seen more than 71,000 deaths amid its 1.2 million confirmed infections, and Europe has endured over 144,000 reported deaths.
President Donald Trump, with his eye on being re-elected in November, is pushing hard to ease the social distancing orders and resuscitate the US economy, which has seen more than 30 million workers lose their jobs in less than two months.
Though the White House had signalled on Tuesday it would begin winding down the country’s coronavirus task force, Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday that it would continue “indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN”.
Underscoring those economic concerns, the European Union predicted the worst recession in its quarter-century history, and the US unemployment rate for April, which comes out on Friday, is expected to hit a startling 16%, a level last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio warned on CNN that some states may be re-opening too quickly.
He said: “My message to the rest of the country is learn from how much effort, how much discipline it took to finally bring these numbers down and follow the same path until you’re sure that it’s being beaten back, or else if this thing boomerangs, you’re putting off any kind of restart or recovery a hell of a lot longer.”
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