Countries take different approaches in lifting lockdown
Madrid: Without a tried-and-tested action plan for how to pull countries out of lockdown, the world is seeing a patchwork of approaches. Schools reopen in one country, stay closed in others; face masks are an obligation here, a simple recommendation there.
Kids still attend soccer practice in Sweden while they are not even allowed outside in Spain. In the US state of Georgia, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys were being allowed to reopen Friday even as American hospitals still heave with virus emergencies.
In other parts of the globe, the prospect of a haircut is still weeks away.
There is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. As governments and scientists fumble around, still struggling with so many unknowns, individuals are being left to take potentially life-affecting decisions.
In France, for instance, the government is leaving families to decide whether to keep children at home or send them back to class when the nationwide lockdown, in place since March 17, starts to be eased from May 11.
In Spain, parents face a similarly knotty decision: whether to let kids get their first fresh air in weeks when the country on Sunday starts to ease the total ban on letting them outside.
Even then, they will still have to abide to a “1-1-1” rule: no more than one hour per day, within a 1 kilometer radius of their house and with no more than one supervising adult.
The imperative to reopen is largely driven by economics, with lockdowns bleeding companies and government coffers of cash.
In a trend seen around the globe, roughly 26 million Americans have filed for jobless aid in five weeks, pushing unemployment to levels last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s and raising the stakes over how and when to ease shutdowns of factories and other businesses.
But the risk of reopening too much, too fast is possible fresh infection spikes that again overwhelm hospital ICUs.
Japan initially seemed to have controlled the outbreak by going after clusters of infections. But on Friday, Japanese medical experts issued a stark warning that the country’s emergency medicine resources are starting to collapse amid dire shortages of protective gear and test kits.
The true numbers are undoubtedly far higher, and new cases are surging in Africa and Latin America as outbreaks subside in some places hit earlier.
Huge lines have formed at food banks from El Paso, Texas, to the Paris suburbs, and food shortages are hitting Africa especially hard.
In Africa, COVID-19 cases have surged 43 per cent in the past week to 26,000, according to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The figures underscored a World Health Organization warning that the virus could kill more than 300,000 people in Africa and push 30 million into desperate poverty.
In Muslim communities, the pandemic was casting a shadow over the holy month of Ramzan — marked by daytime fasting, overnight festivities and communal prayer.
Ramzan begins for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims with this week’s new moon. Many Muslim leaders have closed mosques or banned collective evening prayer to ward off infections.
The virus has already disrupted Christianity’s Holy Week, Judaism’s Passover, the Muslim hajj pilgrimage and other major religious events.
While the health crisis has eased in places like Italy, Spain and France, experts say it is far from over, and the threat of new outbreaks looms large. (AP)