Spain, Italy and other European countries are further easing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions starting with May 18.
Spain has slightly eased restrictions on some of its least affected islands.
In Italy, most businesses, including bars and hairdressers, are reopening after more than two months of nationwide lockdown measures.
The measures follow consistent drops in the number of daily recorded deaths.
On May 17, Italy recorded the fewest daily deaths since it entered lockdown in March.
According to Italian officials, 145 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours. This marked a significant drop from its highest daily death toll, which was more than 900 on March 27.
In Spain, the daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since it imposed its lockdown restrictions.
However, officials are warning that complacency over the virus could lead to a second wave of infections.
Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and shops have been allowed to reopen in Italy, providing social distancing is enforced.
Almost 32,000 people in Italy have died in the pandemic, and the economy is expected to shrink by nearly 10% this year.
Catholic churches are resuming Mass, but there is strict social distancing and worshippers must wear face masks. Other faiths are also being allowed to hold religious services.
However, health officials have warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings.
Pope Francis held a private Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which has been disinfected ahead of its reopening to tourists.
The Mass honored the late Pope John Paul II, 100 years after his birth in Poland.
Germany has extended its restrictions on social interactions to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, banning public gatherings of more than two people.
People will not be allowed to form groups of three or more in public unless they live together in the same household, or the gathering is work-related. Police will monitor and punish anyone infringing the new rules.
In a TV address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “our own behavior” was the “most effective way” of slowing the rate of infection.
The measures included closing hair, beauty and massage studios. Other non-essential shops had already been shut.
Restaurants will now only be allowed to open for takeaway service. All restrictions apply to every German state, and will be in place for at least the next two weeks.
Shortly afterwards, Chancellor Merkel’s office said she would quarantine herself.
A doctor who vaccinated Angela Merkel on March 20 against pneumococcus, a pneumonia-causing bacteria, had tested positive for coronavirus.
The 65-year-old chancellor will be tested regularly in the next few days and work from home, her spokesman said.
Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has so far confirmed 18,610 cases and 55 deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Chancellor Merkel urged citizens to keep contact outside their own household to an absolute minimum and to ensure a distance of at least 1.5m (5ft) from another person when in public.
“The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus.” Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The first death from new coronavirus outside Asia has been confirmed in France.
According to French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, the victim was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist from Hubei province.
The man arrived in France on January 16 and was placed in quarantine in hospital in Paris on January 25, the minister said.
Only three deaths had previously been reported outside mainland China – in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.
1,523 people have died from the virus within China, mostly in Hubei province, where it first emerged. These include 143 deaths newly reported on February 15 by China’s national health commission.
A further 2,641 people have been newly confirmed as infected, bringing China’s total cases to 66,492.
However, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on February 15 that the outbreak in Hubei was now being managed more effectively – “indicating that overall the epidemic is controllable”.
Speaking at a security conference in Germany, Wang Yi said the number of people who had recovered reached more than 8,000 on February 14.
At the same meeting, the head of the WHO said all countries should be prepared for the arrival of the virus.
In late January, France became the first European country to confirm cases of the virus. It has had 11 confirmed cases of the disease, officially called Covid-19. Six people remain in hospital.
The Chinese tourist in France had been in a critical condition in the Bichat hospital in northern Paris, the health minister said. He died of a lung infection due to the coronavirus.
His 50-year-old daughter is among the six in hospital with the virus, but she is recovering, the minister said.
The other five people are British nationals who caught the virus at a chalet in the ski resort of Contamines-Montjoie.
Outside mainland China, there have been more than 500 cases in 26 countries.
Earlier in the day, the US said it was sending a plane to Japan to evacuate Americans stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is being held in quarantine in a Japanese port.
According to Japan’s NHK broadcaster, some 400 US citizens are reported to be on the cruise ship. Those with symptoms are expected to be treated in Japan.
Out of 3,700 people on board, 218 have tested positive for the virus. Australia also said it was considering removing its citizens from the ship.
Meanwhile, an 83-year-old American woman on a cruise ship which docked in Cambodia, has tested positive for the virus after arriving by air in Malaysia.
The MS Westerdam had been turned away by five destinations, including the US island of Guam, before Cambodia agreed it could land.
The woman and her husband were among 145 passengers from the ship who flew to Malaysia after it docked. According to the Malaysian health authorities Both showed symptoms, but he tested negative.
No cases were found on board the cruise ship during regular health checks on the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew.
On February 14, Egypt’s health ministry confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in Africa. The ministry described the person as a foreigner, but did not disclose their nationality.