Pandemic grips LatAm, US | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 31, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:53 AM, May 31, 2020

Pandemic grips LatAm, US

Brazil’s death toll tops that of Spain as India announces major easing of lockdown

Latin American countries and US are bracing for difficult weeks ahead as the death toll from coronavirus spiked again, with Europe continuing to open up from lockdown yesterday after seeing its number of infections steadily fall. 

The virus, which has killed more than 364,000 people and devastated the global economy, is progressing at different speeds across the globe. 

India yesterday announced a major relaxation of the lockdown from early June, except for so-called "containment zones" with high numbers of infections.

A home ministry order said that places of religious worship, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls "will be allowed" to operate from June 8, while educational establishments will be opened "after consultations" with Indian state authorities.

The announcement came even after the world's second-most populous country announced another record daily rise in infections, taking the total to more than 85,000 cases with almost 5,000 deaths.

Countries in Latin America are bracing for difficult weeks ahead, especially Brazil, where the death toll shot up by 1,124 on Friday and there was a record number of new infections.

Nearly six million people have been confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 across the world, and a vaccine remains elusive.

As the disease spreads across South America, the poor have been hit hard in countries like Brazil, which now has the second highest number of cases in the world after the United States.

"In 26 years, I've never seen so many people living in fear, so many people going hungry," said Alcione Albanesi, founder of charity Amigos do Bem, which distributes supplies to communities in the impoverished Sertao region of Brazil's northeast.

"Everything has ground to a stop. But hunger doesn't stop."

Chile also logged another record number of deaths on Friday, pushing its total to almost 1,000.

POSITIVE SIGNS

In European countries that seem on the other side of their outbreak peak, there has been pressure to lift crippling lockdowns despite experts warning of a possible second wave of infections.

Tourism-dependent Greece said it will restart its two main airports for arrivals from 29 countries from June 15. But some European nations hard hit by the virus are not on the list, including France, Spain, Britain and Italy.

In Austria, hotels and cinemas were allowed to take in customers again on Friday under special guidelines, provided masks are worn.

"It is very important that things return to normal, because I am a person who lives alone and is very interested in culture," film buff Rotraud Turanitz said at Vienna's Admiral Kino cinema.

Hotels and shopping centres in Ukraine's capital Kiev also reopened yesterday.

Turkey too has moved ahead with easing its restrictions as mosques opened for the first time in months, drawing hundreds of worshippers in masks for mass prayers in Istanbul.

And Denmark said it would reopen its border to visitors from Germany, Norway and Iceland from June 15, although Britain and the rest of the EU will have to wait a few more months.

Across the Atlantic, the US capital Washington DC resumed outdoor dining with social distancing precautions in place, while Los Angeles restaurants and hair salons also reopened.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state was "on track" to begin reopening in the week of June 8, even as the death toll in the US spiked by 1,225 on Friday.

Disney World in Florida said it will be up and running again from July 11.

China even welcomed its first Europeans since suspending visas in late March, with a plane carrying 200 mainly German workers landing near Beijing.

ECONOMIES SHATTERED

The economic damage from weeks of lockdowns continues to pile up, with Chile taking out a two-year $24 billion credit line with the IMF.

India's economy grew at its slowest pace in two decades in the first quarter, and Canada and Brazil also said their GDP figures shrank.

As the lockdowns finally lift, some people are revelling in the return of long-missed creature comforts.

In Japan traditional bathhouses have begun to open again, much to the delight of businessman You Sasaki, who told AFP he had been counting down the days to his next soak in the warm pools of Yumominosato onsen, just outside Tokyo.

"This feels good. Feels great," the 50-year-old said as he sat in a tub.

"The last time I came here was the end of March. The onsen is always special. It's hard to explain in words."

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