Europe loosens lockdown as virus tightens grip on Americas


Foreign Desk Report

LONDON: Europe took bolder steps in easing coronavirus lockdowns Monday, with some pubs, tourist sites, pools and schools reopening despite fears of a second wave of infections, while in Latin America new cases piled up past the one million mark.
The pandemic has now killed more than 372,000 million people and infected at least 6.1 million since erupting in China last year — and efforts to halt its spread by imposing restrictions on everyday life have plunged several economies into recession.
The United States, where the ongoing crisis has now been overshadowed by anti-racism protests provoked by police killings, is by some distance the worst affected country, but cases are also spreading quickly in Latin America, particularly in troubled giant Brazil.
Nevertheless, from Russia to France, Italy and Britain, countries have started to emerge from months-long lockdowns, cautiously adopting a post-pandemic version of normal. Bars began to serve again n Finland and Norway albeit with distancing restrictions or shortened hours while some schools in Britain and Greece opened their doors again.
But the decision to allow schools to partially reopen in Britain drew criticism from some who accuse Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government of moving too fast to end a lockdown that he has been accused of being too slow to impose. “COVID-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England,” scientific advisor Jeremy Farrar said on Twitter.
There has also been scepticism in Russia, where Moscow shopping malls and parks reopened on Monday despite the still-high number of cases, although there was also cautious hope among shopkeepers eager to see business pick up again.
“We opened two hours ago but we already have a few clients. I’m pretty optimistic, I think people will come back little by little,” Olga told AFP at her shop selling handbags and jewelry in central Moscow.
While reopening parts of his own country, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also called Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to wish him a speedy recovery, as he became the latest leader to test positive.
Elsewhere in Europe, still bolder steps were taken. Greece opened some hotels, schools, pools and tattoo parlours, while in Slovenia a mandatory rule to wear masks was eased as the country declared the end of the outbreak.