The world tiptoes out of COVID-19 lockdown

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Italy and the United States are among a slew of countries tentatively easing coronavirus lockdowns to revive economies as global deaths surpassed a quarter of a million.

World leaders and organisations pledged $US8 billion to fund a possible vaccine and treatments, many hoping explicitly to ensure that no country on Earth would be left out, but the United States did not contribute.

Italy, among the world’s hardest-hit countries, allowed about 4.5 million people to return to work after nearly two months at home.

Construction work can resume and relatives can reunite.

In the United States, which has the world’s highest total of infections and deaths, at almost 1.2 million and 68,000 respectively, Ohio and other states were easing more curbs on businesses.

An internal US government document projected a sharp rise in daily deaths by June 1, the New York Times reported on Monday, to 3,000 Americans a day by the end of May, up from a current daily toll that a Reuters tally places at around 2,000.

On the same day, a University of Washington research model often cited by White House officials nearly doubled its projected US death toll to over 134,000 by August 4.

Asked about the Times report, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.”

In New York, the hardest-hit US state, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a phased reopening of business, starting with industries such as construction, and the least affected regions.

Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Israel and Lebanon were also among countries variously reopening factories, construction sites, parks, hairdressers and libraries.

The daily increase in coronavirus cases worldwide has been 2 per cent-3 per cent over the past week, down from around 13 per cent in mid-March.

Confirmed cases – certain to exclude many mild cases – have risen to around 3.58 million, according to a Reuters tally.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country, where the novel coronavirus has killed over 29,000 people and over a thousand new cases are reported daily, was still in the “full throes of the pandemic”.

Hairdressers, ironmongers and other shops tentatively opened as Spain, too, began a phased reopening.

Red Cross workers handed out masks at Madrid metro stations, now mandatory on public transport.

And Spain’s widely watched top tier of soccer, La Liga, said clubs were starting to train in the hope of resuming the season in June.

Similar phased steps were taken in other countries, from Portugal and Belgium to India and Israel.

But Japan extended a state of emergency to at least May 31.

And the EU agency for disease control said Britain, yet to ease its lockdown, was one of five European countries yet to reach the peak of its outbreak, contradicting the UK government’s line.

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