Europe emerges from lockdown as virus hopes rise

But the global pandemic took a turn for the worse in other places such as India, Afghanistan and Rusia

From the United States to Europe and Asia, people in many parts of the world have begun emerging from their homes as virus-related restrictions begin to ease and springtime temperatures climb. More than 242,000 people have been killed and 3.4 million infected worldwide by the virus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown and pushed the global economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

With signs that the spread of the contagion has been brought under control, parts of Europe and the United States have begun to cautiously lift restrictions in an effort to inject life into economies crippled by weeks of closures and ease the pressure from populations wearying of captivity.

After Spaniards flocked to the streets to jog, cycle and rollerskate for the first time after 48 days of confinement on Saturday, people in Italy - the country with the second-highest number of virus deaths in the world - on Monday will be allowed to stroll in parks and visit relatives. Restaurants can open for takeaway and wholesale stores can resume business. From Monday, Hungary will also allow some stores and museums, outdoor spaces of restaurants and hotels, beaches and baths to reopen, although restrictions will remain in the capital Budapest, which has recorded about 70% of the country's cases.

Germany will also continue its easing at the start of the week, with schools in some areas expected to reopen, while Slovenia and Poland will allow some businesses and public spaces to operate again. France has said it will partially lift its lockdown on 11 May.

But with health experts warning the disease could hit hard once again, they are sticking to social distancing measures, the use of masks and more testing to try to track infections.

"We must maintain social distancing, maximum hygiene levels, and masks. We've done our bit to the best of our ability. From Monday, it's up to you," Italian emergency response official Domenico Arcuri said.

Across the Atlantic, the pressure to ease virus measures is intense on leaders in the United States, where the economy has been hammered with tens of millions left jobless and anti-lockdown protests erupting in many areas. Crowds of demonstrators, some armed, denounced the lockdowns in New Hampshire and Kentucky, while at California's Huntington Beach, some surfers defied orders to stay away from the shore.

"Surfing is essential business around here, dude!" 25-year-old Todd told AFP.

The United States has the most coronavirus deaths in the world and President Donald Trump is keen for a turnaround to help reduce the economic pain. An there are now signs that the pandemic is slowing down in some parts of the United States.

In New York City, the epicentre of the US outbreak, an emergency field hospital erected in Central Park is set to close, the Christian charity running it said Saturday, as virus cases decline in the city. But authorities are wary of letting their guard down too fast, with fears the virus could wreak havoc in the most vulnerable communities in the United States.

A massive wave of infections is sweeping through America's prison population - the world's largest at 2.3 million - with coronavirus deaths on the rise in jails and penitentiaries across the country. Riots over inadequate protection and slow responses by authorities have already taken place in prisons in Washington state and Kansas.

"Things are beyond breaking point at this facility," said Brian Miller, an officer at the Marion prison in Ohio. "Right now it's hell."

In addition to Europe, countries elsewhere are also relaxing some coronavirus measures. Thailand allowed businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and outdoor markets to reopen so long as social distancing was maintaine. Singapore has announced it would gradually ease some of its restrictions, while Turkey on Saturday said it would lift curbs on the export of medical supplies.

Thailand allowed businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and outdoor markets to reopen Sunday so long as social distancing was maintained and temperature checks carried out. But experts have warned that some countries are still in the first stages of their outbreaks and things could get worse there.

But the global pandemic took a turn for the worse in other places. India on Sunday reported more than 2,600 new cases, its biggest single-day jump. That followed record increases in neighboring Pakistan and Russia the previous day. There was also worrying news from Afghanistan, where about a third tested positive in a random test.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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