PARIS — After a two-month freeze, Paris slowly awakened on Monday to the world it had lost under lockdown as hairdressers, florists, nail salons and some other businesses reopened, but under mandatory social distancing requirements.
“It’s a bit an act of faith today,” said Edouard Lefebvre, who heads the business district on the Champs-Elysees Avenue, packed with crowds of locals and foreign tourists in normal times.
Only half of the avenue’s shops were open Monday, Lefebvreon said, reflecting the extensive preparations needed to safely receive customers and the hesitant steps many people took toward pre-pandemic routines.
“Clients won’t come back on day one. It takes time to get used to coming back to the Champs-Elysees, to come back to Paris,” Lefebvre said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Restaurants and bars – at the heart of France’s proverbial joie de vivre – are still waiting to learn when they will be back in business and cafe life can resume under the French government’s phased-in lifting of restrictions it imposed to stem the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
France was hit hard by COVID-19, recording more than 26,000 virus-related deaths as of Sunday night.
The virus still is circulating. Authorities, trying to strike a balance between public health and boosting the economy as cases plateaued, reopened numerous sectors around the country. They will reassess the situation in three weeks, wary of a second wave.
As well, French defence minister Florence Parly has acknowledged mistakes’ that led about two-thirds of troops aboard an aircraft carrier to be infected with the coronavirus.
Parly told French lawmakers Monday that one sailor from the Charles de Gaulle remains hospitalized. Others have recovered.
The number of positive cases reached a total 1,046 out of 1,760 sailors onboard the aircraft carrier.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared an end to a nationwide partial economic shutdown, but noted that some restrictions will remain.
Putin, speaking in a televised address to the nation Monday, said that it will be up to regional governors in the far-flung Russian Federation to determine what industrial plants could reopen starting Tuesday. He emphasized that it’s essential to preserve jobs and keep the economy running provided that workers strictly observe sanitary norms.
Putin ordered the economic shutdown in late March, although key industrial plants and some other sectors have been allowed to continue operating. Most Russians have been ordered to stay home, except for visits to nearby stores, pharmacies and visits to doctors.
Moscow will allow all of its industrial plants and construction sites to resume work starting Tuesday, and Putin said other regions may follow the example. Non-food stores, hairdressers, car dealers and most other enterprises in the services sector remain shut.
Putin emphasized that the restrictions must be lifted gradually to avoid triggering a new wave of contagion.
Meanwhile, in Washington, The White House is recommending that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for the new coronavirus in the next two weeks.
Vice-President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, told governors on a video conference call Monday that it’s the federal government’s strong recommendation that such testing be done.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force co-ordinator, told governors to focus over the next two weeks on testing all one million nursing home residents. She says the White House will help states that need it.
Nursing homes and the elderly have been shown to be especially susceptible to the virus.
In Chicago, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office says a senior staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, but the governor has tested negative.
In Orlando, hair and nail salons along with barbershops began reopening in much of Florida on Monday.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed such businesses to reopen with tight regulations except in hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the state’s two most-populous. That comes almost six weeks after they were ordered closed statewide.
The state has ordered that barbers, cosmetologists, and manicurists wear masks when seeing customers, that they require appointments so that few people will be waiting inside and that they spend 15 minutes between each customer sanitizing the work station.
In Rome, for a fifth straight day on Monday, Italy’s daily number of new COVID-19 infections has declined.
According to Italian Health Ministry data, there were 744 confirmed new cases registered since Sunday evening.
That number is lower than daily caseloads when contagion containment measures went into effect nationwide in early March.
The country where Europe’s outbreak began now has 219,814 cases, a tally that experts say is surely significantly lower than actual infections, since many with mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms didn’t get hospitalized or tested.
In recent days, the number of daily new deaths also has been significantly lower than in early weeks, with 179 registered on Monday.
Still, the known death toll is one of the world’s highest — 30,739.
Health officials say it will be later this week at earliest before they can assess if a limited easing of lockdown restrictions on citizens’ movements, including the opening of public parks last week, has triggered any uptick in infections.
Italy is moving cautiously and gradually in reopening economic sectors and in removing travel limits.
Italy’s transport minister says tourists from abroad won’t have to go into quarantine once they are able to visit again.
Presently during pandemic travel restrictions, foreigners can enter Italy for as long as five days but only for work reasons. Then they must leave.
Transport Minister Paola De Micheli told the foreign press association in Rome on Monday that when that restriction can be lifted depends on how coronavirus infection rates are running in specific countries.
When visitors for pleasure eventually can resume travel to Italy, “we can’t insist that a tourist comes and goes into quarantine,” the minister said.
In Berlin, the German government is making available $810 million to speed up the production and development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
Science minister Anja Karliczek said Monday that about 500 million euros will go into scientific studies and vaccine trials, while 250 million euros will go into expanding production capacities in Germany.
Numerous universities and companies worldwide, including in Germany, are rushing to develop a vaccine for the pandemic-causing virus.
Germany has recorded more than 170,000 cases and at least 7,484 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
In Greece, a national teachers’ union in Greece says a government decision to livestream school classes could violate children’s privacy rights and should be revised.
Classes for the final year of high school reopened Monday, with lower grades to follow next week. The livestreaming allows teachers to rotate student attendance and keep classrooms at 50% capacity or below.
Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, said the online class coverage would remain in effect, noting that the Greek independent Data Protection Authority “had been consulted and provided written consent.”
Greece’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 151 Monday with no new fatalities being reported since Saturday. Ten new cases brought the confirmed total to 2,726, the Health Ministry said.
In Johannesburg, Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province have become South Africa’s coronavirus hotspot, accounting for more than half of the nation’s confirmed cases.
South Africa has confirmed more than 10,600 cases of COVID-19 and the Western Cape province has 5,621 cases, according to figures released Monday. Of the country’s 206 deaths caused by COVID-19, 116 have occurred in the province.
Cape Town, with its poor, densely populated townships, is the centre of the cases in the province.
South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses.
However, the concentration of cases in Cape Town may see the city return to a stricter lockdown.
In Prague, the Czech government is ready to partially ease mandatory use of face masks, its most visible tool to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the protective masks that people have been required to wear in public since March 19 will be mandatory only inside buildings, on public transport and in other enclosed spaces as of May 25.
Vojtech says in the open air, masks will have to be used if two people who are not relatives are closer to each other than two metres.
The day-to-day increase of COVID-19 cases was well under 100 for the 10th straight day in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday. Three people died on Sunday for a total of 281 with the fatalities remaining under 10 a day since April 13.
Meanwhile, Switzerland has begun a gradual return nearer to normal amid a recent decline in confirmed coronavirus cases.
The government on Monday relaxed nearly two months of restrictions that had shuttered schools, offices, restaurants and nearly all stores except food vendors and pharmacies.
Geneva’s old-city shopping district got a bit more bustle as kids returned to classes, stores reopened their doors, and downtown eateries got back to business by erecting partitions between tables, unfurling long-unused parasols and trotting out bottles of hand sanitizer for patrons at their entrances.
The Federal office of public health said only 39 new cases were recorded over the last day, confirming a decline from a peak of nearly 1,500 tallied in a single day on March 23. All told, Switzerland has recorded 30,344 confirmed cases and 1,543 deaths in the outbreak.