Americans have packed beaches and lakes for Memorial Day weekend, often flouting restrictions imposed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
In Florida, state police dispersed an unauthorized gathering of hundreds of people in Daytona Beach on May 23.
In Missouri, bars at the Lake of the Ozarks were packed with revelers, who violated social-distancing rules.
Coronavirus task force chief Dr. Deborah Birx said she was “very concerned” after seeing such scenes.
Dr. Birx said on ABC’s This Week on May 24: “We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”
St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said: “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to engage in such high risk behavior just to have some fun over the extended holiday weekend.
“Now, these folks will be going home to S. Louis and counties across Missouri and the Midwest, raising concerns about the potential of more positive cases, hospitalizations, and tragically, deaths. Deeply disturbing.”
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has passed 4 million milestone, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
The global death toll has also risen to above 277,000.
The US remains the worst-hit country in the world, accounting for over a quarter of confirmed cases and a third of deaths.
Experts warn the true number of infections is likely to be far higher, with low testing rates in many countries skewing the data.
Daily death tolls are continuing to drop in some nations, including Spain, but there is concern that easing lockdown restrictions could lead to a “second wave” of infections.
In addition, governments are bracing for economic fallout as the pandemic hits global markets and supply chains.
A senior Chinese official has told local media that the pandemic was a “big test” that had exposed weaknesses in the country’s public health system. The rare admission, from the director of China’s National Health Commission, Li Bin, comes after sustained criticism abroad of China’s early response.
This week, some lockdown measures have begun easing in Italy, once the global epicenter of the pandemic. Italians have been able to exercise outdoors and visit family members in their region.
France has recorded its lowest daily number of coronavirus deaths for more than a month, with 80 deaths over the past 24 hours. Authorities are preparing to ease restrictions from May 11, as is the government in neighboring Spain.
Meanwhile, lockdowns are continuing in countries like South Africa, despite calls from opposition parties for it to end.
In South Korea, renewed restrictions are being imposed on bars and clubs after a series of transmissions linked to Seoul’s leisure district.
Russia also canceled a military parade in Moscow, planned as part of the country’s Victory Day celebrations. Instead, President Vladimir Putin hosted a subdued event on May 9, laying roses at the Eternal Flame war memorial.
However, despite scientific evidence, leaders of several countries have continued to express skepticism about the virus and the need for lockdowns.
In Belarus, thousands of soldiers marched to celebrate Victory Day, as President Alexander Lukashenko rejected calls for tougher measures.
British medical journal The Lancet has written a scathing editorial about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, calling him the biggest threat to his country’s ability to contain the spread of coronavirus. Brazil is currently reporting the highest number of cases in Latin America – over 10,000 more on May 9, bringing the national total to nearly 156,000. But despite the outbreak, President Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the virus’ severity and has clashed with governors over lockdown measures.
Germany is to reopen all shops as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Meanwhile, Bundesliga soccer has been given the green light to resume and schools will gradually reopen in the summer term.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany’s goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus has been achieved.
Germany’s 16 federal states, under an agreement with the government, will take control of timing the reopening.
They will operate an “emergency brake” if there is a new surge in infections.
General contact rules involving will continue for another month. A limited resumption has already begun, but this easing of restrictions is far broader.
Two households will be able to meet and eat together, and elderly people in nursing homes and facilities for the disabled will be able to have visits from one specific person.
Chancellor Merkel said: “I think we can safely state that the very first phase of the pandemic is behind us. But we need to be very much aware we are still in the early phases and we’ll be in it for the long haul.”
Germany has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic – a much lower figure than in other Western European countries including the UK, Italy, France and Spain.
On May 6, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal public health body, reported 165 deaths in the past 24 hours and some 947 new infections.
The rate of infection has been consistently low for some time, and Angela Merkel said she was very pleased that the number of new, daily infections was into three digits. She praised the responsibility of German citizens in sticking to lockdown measures to protect the lives of others as well as themselves.
Shops of up to 800 square meters (8,600ft) in size have already been allowed to open. All restrictions on shops will now be lifted, although masks must be worn and social distancing maintained.
Schools have already begun opening for older children; all pupils will be allowed to return to class gradually during the summer term.
Germany, in common with other countries, is wary of a second surge in infections. If new infections rise to above 50 people in every 100,000 in a district over a seven-day period, then it will be up to the local authority in the affected area to re-impose restrictions.
A number of the 16 lands have been less affected by the crisis, so some are more eager to ease restrictions than others.
Bavaria in the south plans to reopen restaurants on May 18 while Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north plans to do that on May 9.
Reopening restaurants and hotels is seen as a particular risk because it will heighten the number of people travelling across Germany and raising infection rates. Large public events will remain banned.
The German soccer league, the Bundesliga, has been given the green light to kick off for the first time since March.
So-called ghost games without spectators could start again as early as May 15 or 21 as long as a two-week quarantine is put in place for the players, in the form of a type of training camp. A decision on the date will be made by the football authorities on May 7.
The Bundesliga will be the first major football league in Europe to resume after the pandemic. However, it is not without risk. Ten positive cases were revealed this week by the German football league out of 1,724 tests across the top two divisions.
Meanwhile, tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss has held out the hope that Germans will be able to go on holiday this summer.
If the outbreak remained under control, he suggested they could go away in Germany and in neighboring countries that had seen a similar drop in infections.
Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska have allowed some stores to reopen after measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as the US death toll passed 51,000.
Salons and spas could reopen in Georgia and Oklahoma while Alaska lifted restrictions on restaurants.
On April 24, President Donald Trump walked out of a shorter than usual briefing, refusing to take questions.
The president has faced criticism after suggesting that injecting household disinfectant into patients could be beneficial.
Donald Trump’s remarks have been condemned as dangerous by doctors and manufacturers. Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested and even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
President Trump said on April 24 that the comments – made at a news conference one day earlier – were sarcastic and taken out of context.
Customers visiting the newly reopened businesses in Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska will be expected to continue adhering to social distancing measures. However, some cities and areas have decided to keep their lockdowns in place.
In Georgia, which has one of the fastest reopening timetables in the US, bowling alleys, spas, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses will be allowed to resume operations. On April 27, dine-in restaurants and theatres will be allowed to re-open.
With unemployment claims reaching 26 million people – or around 15% of the population – since mid-March, many states are feeling the pressure to resume trading.
However, health experts have warned that the steps might be happening too soon, amid fears they could spark another wave of infections.
After being criticized by President Trump, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tightened some of the sanitation and social distancing requirements for restaurants.
In the April 24 White House briefing that lasted just over 20 minutes, President Trump asked people to continue to follow rules around social distancing and the use of face masks.
Also on April 24, President Trump signed a $484 billion economic stimulus bill into law, saying he wanted to “rush economic relief to our citizens”. It is the fourth Covid-19 relief package passed by Washington, and allocates funds towards greater testing, hospitals and a small business loan program.
The US has by far the highest death toll and case count in the world. But despite recording more than 890,000 cases, the US population of 330 million is much higher than other countries badly hit by the virus, such as Spain and Italy.
Recent steep rises in the daily US death toll are also partly due to the inclusion of “probable” virus deaths – on April 14, the CDC said their case counts would include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.
A probable Covid-19 death is one that meets clinical and epidemiological criteria but has not been confirmed by testing.
It is also important to note that many mild cases remain unreported, so the death rate from confirmed cases is not the same as the disease’s overall death rate.
Testing efforts are key to tracking the actual mortality and spread of the disease. VP Mike Pence, the Covid-19 taskforce leader, said the US had conducted 4.9 million tests thus far, and that the government was working with governors to expand testing.
Spain will allow children outside after six weeks of confinement, the country’s prime minister has announced.
Spanish children have been kept at home since March 14, under strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Now PM Pedro Sánchez aims to relax the rule on April 27 so they can “get some fresh air”.
Meanwhile, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who has young children herself, this week pleaded with the government to allow children outside.
Spain has seen more than 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and almost 200,000 reported cases.
In a TV briefing on April 18, PM Sánchez said Spain had left behind “the most extreme moments and contained the brutal onslaught of the pandemic”.
However, the prime minister said he would ask parliament to extend the country’s state of alarm to May 9 as the achievements made were “still insufficient and above all fragile” and could not be jeopardized by “hasty decisions”.
Another 410 deaths were reported on April 19 – fewer than the previous day. The latest death toll is well down from the peak of the pandemic, and the government allowed some non-essential workers to resume construction and manufacturing on April 13.
However, the main lockdown measures remain in place, with adults only allowed out to visit food stores and pharmacies or work considered essential. Children have been barred from going outside their homes completely.
Spain’s eight million children have already spent five weeks in confinement and there has been growing unease at the risk to their health.
The Spanish Children’s Rights Coalition has warned of mental and physical health problems for children as a result of such measures and called for boys and girls to be allowed outside to play and do some physical activity.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau demanded: “These children need to get out. Wait no more: Free our children!”
Orthodox Christians from all over the world are celebrating the most important festival in their calendar this weekend amid a series of restrictions and bans on traditional observance.
Authorities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East have said congregations must not attend services.
However, in Georgia, worshippers will still be able to attend churches.
Russia’sOrthodox Church has agreed to break from its annual traditions and is urging millions of believers not to attend church. Worshippers usually attend late-night processions to receive blessings. This year Mass will only be held in the presence of priests and other clergy.
In Greece, restrictions on movement have so far been widely praised for curbing the spread of coronavirus.
This Easter authorities have banned attendance of church services, which would normally attract hundreds of thousands of worshippers.
When the Holy Fire arrives in Athens on Saturday evening it will be taken to the Jerusalem patriarchate in Athens and unusually will not be distributed to churches elsewhere.
The Church has backed the ban and thousands of police have been deployed to prevent Greeks using the holiday to visit relatives or second homes.
In Romania, people have been told they will not be allowed to leave their homes to receive the Holy Fire on Easter night or take bread splashed with holy water and wine, as is traditional. However, the Holy Light will be distributed to the homes of believers who request it.
The neighboring country, Bulgaria, has imposed a curfew on the capital Sofia to stop traffic in and out of the city to stop people heading off on holiday.
Churches in Serbia and Montenegro have told worshippers to celebrate Easter at home.
However, North Macedonia’s Orthodox Church says it will not use force to prevent people going to church.
InUkraine, officials have said riot police will be deployed if believers start gathering at churches in big numbers.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II held a Good Friday service without a congregation at a monastery north-east of Cairo. The service was televised live on Coptic Orthodox TV channels and showed deacons and priests gathered with gaps between them to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Holy Flame was taken on Saturday, April 18, to the Church of the Holy Nativity in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
The traditional Holy Fire ceremony went ahead in a near-deserted Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The church was closed last month and only a handful of Orthodox clergy, some of them wearing black masks, were allowed in for the ceremony.
A candle is traditionally lit with the Holy Fire in the crypt of the Holy Sepulchre by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus.
Instead of the flame being passed on to thousands of pilgrims, this time the ceremony was attended by the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, four assistants and Coptic and Syrian archbishops, Israeli media report.
The church bells tolled and the flame was carried out of the church by Theophilos III and others to be taken to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and flown to 10 countries.
Denmark has reopened schools and nurseries for children up to the age of 11.
In Spain, construction and manufacturing work is back under way.
In Austria, thousands of smaller shops reopened on April 14, and the country will allow outdoor sport such as tennis, golf and athletics from May 1.
In Italy, some regions have reopened bookstores and children’s clothing stores.
France, however, has extended its lockdown measures for four more weeks until May 11. Belgium will maintain its restrictions until at least May 3.
In Russia, veterans groups have called for President Vladimir Putin to postpone the World War Two 75th anniversary victory parade planned for May 9, because of the risk it could pose to participants.
After a video conference with the heads of Germany’s 16 lands, Chancellor Merkel announced the gradual loosening of the strict lockdown measures.
Schools can reopen “gradually and very slowly” after May 4, she said, with new safety measures for breaks and school buses, and priority given to those students with exams.
She said: “It will be a great logistical effort and it needs very careful preparation.”
Stores of up to 800 square meters (8,600 sq ft) could be able to restart their businesses from Monday, provided they have “plans to maintain hygiene”, the chancellor said.
Car dealers, bike stores and bookstores can all reopen, regardless of their size. Hairdressers will be allowed to open their doors from May 4, provided they too comply with strict hygiene measures.
Angela Merkel strongly recommended people don protective face masks while shopping and while taking public transport, saying this “will help to protect other people”.
It makes Germany the latest country to issue guidance on face masks in public – although Chancellor Merkel did not make it mandatory.
German economy, the Europe’s biggest, entered a recession in March, its economy ministry said, citing “collapsing global demand, interruption of supply chains, changes in consumer behavior and uncertainty among investors”.
Last month, the German government passed a stimulus package worth €750bn ($816 billion) in a bid to help ease the effect of the coronavirus.
Governor Cuomo criticized President Trump at his daily press briefing, telling reporters that this was the governors’ prerogative, not the president’s. Andrew Cuomo would “not engage” in a fight with President Trump, he claimed, but added he would have “no choice” if the president the threatened the welfare of New Yorkers.
President Trump drew rebuke after claiming on April 13 that he had the ultimate authority to lift lockdown orders, contradicting governors and legal experts.
On April 14, the president took the row to Twitter criticizing Andrew Cuomo and issuing an oblique snipe at other governors.
President Trump tweeted: “Tell the Democrat Governors that ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’ was one of my all time favorite movies.
“A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain.”
The movie tells the story of a ship’s revolt in which mutineers meet with unhappy ends, with President Trump appearing to compare himself to the captain.
He aimed particular fire at Andrew Cuomo, who he said was calling “daily, even hourly, begging for everything,” like hospitals, beds, ventilators for his state. New York remains the US state hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, reporting 778 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Andrew Cuomo told CNN on April 14: “I put my hand out in total partnership and cooperation with the president.”
The comments follow President Trump’s assertion on April 13 that “the president of the United States calls the shots,” during a combative press conference in which he feuded with reporters.
However, the US Constitution says the states maintain public order and safety.
The Trump administration has signaled May 1st as a potential date for easing the restrictions.
The current White House recommendations for Americans to avoid restaurants and non-essential travel and keep in-person gatherings to no more than 10 people expire on April 30.
Andrew Cuomo described President Trump’s position as a “shift” for the president, who had left the shuttering of states to governors.
As more US states tighten measures to fight the coronavirus, about three out of four Americans are now, or about to be, under some form of lockdown.
The US has almost 175,000 confirmed virus cases and over 3,400 deaths.
It surpassed Italy last week as the country with the highest number of people suffering from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee and Arizona became the latest states to order citizens to stay at home, meaning 32 of 50 states have taken such steps.
Meanwhile governors are quarrelling with President Donald Trump about the availability of testing kits.
New York City is the worst-hit place in the US, with 914 confirmed fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Some 245 million people are already under orders to stay at home, or facing such orders which come into effect later on March 31.
Almost two-thirds of states have issued directives for their citizens to stay put, while the remaining states have localized orders in effect.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been reluctant to impose a state-wide order, said he would instruct people in four counties in the south – where more than half the state’s cases of the virus exist – to stay at home. He said this would last until at least the middle of May.
In general, the “lockdowns” allow people to only go out to get essential supplies and medicines, or limited forms of exercise.
The economic consequences have been profound, with millions of people having lost their jobs.
In his address, PM Modi also stressed that the 21 day lockdown was “very necessary to break the chain of coronavirus”. He emphasized the seriousness of the situation and said that even developed countries had faced problems in combating it. He also said that “social distancing was the only way to stop” the virus spreading.
The prime minister announced that nearly $2 billion would be made available to boost India’s health infrastructure.
He called on people not to “spread rumors” and to follow instructions.
The prime minister’s announcement came after several Indian states introduced measures of their own, such as travel restrictions and the closure of non-essential services.
India has already issued a ban on international arrivals and grounded domestic flights. The country’s rail network has also suspended most passenger services.
Some states, including Victoria, have signaled that they want to close schools.
Seven people have died across Australia so far from Covid-19.
The new restrictions come after large crowds gathered on Sydney’s beaches including Bondi on March 21, flouting social distancing advice.
PM Morrison said that the federal and state governments had decided to act because Australians were not obeying guidelines.
However, the prime minister added: “We are not putting in place lockdowns that put people in and confine them to their homes.
“That is not a measure that has been contemplated at this point.”
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said people, especially the young, had to realize that they needed to live “very differently” and stop going out in order to control the virus.
PM Morrison also announced new stimulus measures to boost the country’s economy.
South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory will close their borders from Tuesday. Under the new rules, anyone arriving will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days.
Tasmania, an island state, has already imposed similar travel restrictions.
The Australian Football League suspended its 2020 season, with no fixtures until at least May 31. The women’s league has also been halted. In contrast, the National Rugby League says it will carry on with matches as planned.