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China sees highest number of Covid-19 cases in one day since March, while Spain reopens some workplaces

More than half of the world’s population is staying home to try and stem the spread of the virus.

Healthcare workers in Spain applaud back as they were cheered on by security forces last month.
Healthcare workers in Spain applaud back as they were cheered on by security forces last month.
Image: Shutterstock/Imaxe Press

Updated Apr 13th 2020, 1:00 PM

THE DEATH TOLL from Covid-19 has slowed in some of the worst-hit countries, with Spain set to reopen parts of its economy today as governments get to terms with a once-in-a-century recession.

Italy, France and the US have all seen a drop in Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, with Italy – the European nation most afflicted – reporting its lowest toll in more than three weeks.

More than half of the world’s population is staying home as part of efforts to stem the spread of the virus which has now killed at least 112,500 people, overwhelming healthcare systems and crippling the world economy.

Spain’s death toll has fallen in recent days, but as a small bump in deaths was reported yesterday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned that the locked-down country was “far from victory”.

“We are all keen to go back out on the streets… but our desire is even greater to win the war and prevent a relapse,” he said, as some companies were set to resume operations at the end of a two-weeks halt of all non-essential activity.

Some factory and construction workers are returned to work today, with police to hand out face masks at metro and train stations.

The lifting of this economic hibernation has led to criticism from some regional leaders and unions, but the rest of the lockdown restrictions in the nation of around 47 million people will remain in place.

France

Meanwhile, France’s lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak will be extended until May 11, President Emmanuel Macron said, but added that the restrictions could start to be eased from then if current positive trends continued.

While giving France a concrete date for a possible ending of strict confinement, Macron acknowledged that the country had not been prepared for a crisis that has killed nearly 15,000 people in the country.

“The strict confinement must continue until Monday, May 11,” Macron said in a TV address, adding that it could then be eased “if we continue to be good citizens, responsible and respect the rules, and if the spread of the virus has indeed continued to slow”.

The lockdown has confined the French to their homes since March 17 with only brief trips allowed outside for shopping and other essential errands.

The epidemic is “beginning to steady… hope is returning,” he said, acknowledging France was “obviously not sufficiently prepared” when its first cases were reported last February.

China

In China, where authorities appeared to have the virus under control last week, officials reported 108 new symptomatic cases today, the highest number of confirmed infections in a single day in over a month.

Imported cases accounted for most of the total, the National Health Commission said, underscoring why the government has been so focused on preventing new outbreaks stemming from international arrivals.

In the US – now the world’s worst-hit nation with a fifth of all deaths and more than half a million confirmed cases – the government’s top infectious disease expert added to cautious optimism that the pandemic may have reached its peak.

Anthony Fauci said parts of the country could begin easing restrictions in May, but warned that the world’s biggest economy would not turn back on like a “light switch”.

“We are hoping by the end of the month we can look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on?” Fauci told CNN. 

President Donald Trump had previously wanted the US to be back to normal by Easter, but most of the country remained at a standstill and churches took celebrations online.

‘Easter of solitude’  

Many of the world’s more than two billion Christians celebrated Easter from the confines of their homes, while Pope Francis delivered a livestream message from a hauntingly empty Vatican. 

“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said.

One priest in Rio de Janeiro blessed the Brazilian city from a helicopter, while another in Portugal addressed the faithful from the open top of a moving convertible car.

In the UK, which has seen more than 10,000 people die in hospital from Covid-19, prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday said he had been discharged after “a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question”.

The UK is now seeing daily death tolls to match those previously seen in Italy and Spain, after recording nearly 1,000 fatalities on Friday and Saturday. There were 737 new deaths reported yesterday. 

Johnson, like Trump, had initially resisted stringent measures such as shutting down public places. 

First case in Yemen

Meanwhile, there were also worrying signs the virus could be taking hold in new, and vulnerable, parts of the world.

Yemen reported its first case last week, raising fears of a devastating outbreak in the war-torn country.

In Mumbai’s crowded Dharavi slum, more than 43 cases have been confirmed.

While sub-Saharan Africa has not been as badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic as some other parts of the world, the economy is being pummelled.

Governments are under pressure to keep populations safe while preventing economic collapse, amid warnings of a downturn not seen since the Great Depression.

But the World Health Organization has warned countries against lifting lockdown restrictions too early. 

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