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AFP
May 12, 2020

Europe emerges from confinement, but Asia infections spike

World

AFP
May 12, 2020

PARIS: Swathes of Europe began the long process of reopening from coronavirus lockdowns on Monday, but a resurgence of infections in China and South Korea offered a sobering reminder of the dangers of a second wave of cases.

The mixed fortunes illustrate the high-wire act governments face across the globe as they try to resuscitate shattered economies while keeping in check a pandemic that has now killed more than 282,000 people and infected over 4.1 million.

As France and Spain embraced new freedoms and Britain plotted a path to normality, the Chinese city of Wuhan where the pandemic was born reported a second day of new cases after a month without a sign of the virus. And neighbouring South Korea announced its highest number of infections for more than a month driven by a cluster in a Seoul nightlife district.

With millions out of work and economies badly bruised, governments are desperate to hit the accelerator, but most are choosing a gradual approach as fears about a resurgence of the virus loom large.

In parts of Europe, officials have been emboldened by declining death rates, with France’s daily toll dropping to 70 on Sunday -- its lowest since early April -- and Spain’s daily fatalities falling below 200.

The French were able venture outdoors without filling in a permit for the first time in nearly eight weeks on Monday, and some shops reopened their doors. The wide boulevards of the Champs-Elysees in Paris were once again back to life with cars and shoppers waiting patiently to make purchases, but things were not as before.

"It’s a little unreal, everyone is wearing masks, it’s really strange," said Irina, queuing outside a cosmetics store. Many Spaniards revelled in being able to visit outdoor terraces and cafes again after months under one of the world’s toughest lockdowns, although virus hotspots such as Madrid and Barcelona remain under wraps.