Ahead of Easter, world leaders warn against relaxing restrictions
As the Easter holiday approaches, world leaders and health officials are fervently warning that the hard-won gains in the fight against the coronavirus must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing.
A spike in deaths in Britain and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and in India’s congested cities make it clear that the battle is far from over.
“We are flattening the curve because we are rigorous about social distancing,” New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “But it’s not a time to be complacent. It’s not a time to do anything different than we’ve been doing.”
The United States has by far the most confirmed cases, with over 430,000 people infected — three times the number of the next three countries combined. New York State on Wednesday recorded its highest one-day increase in deaths, 779, for an overall death toll of almost 6,300. The State has more than 40 percent of the US death total of around 15,000.
In Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn cautioned that the positive trend in reduced new infections “must be cemented.”
“So it is right to remain consistent over Easter,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper yesterday. “Even if it is difficult in this weather, we should stay at home and refrain from family visits so that the infection curve does not rise again.”
In New Zealand, police warned people not to drive to their holiday homes over Easter or they would be risking arrest. “It’s simple — traveling to and from different towns and cities risks spreading COVID-19, and puts lives at risk,” police said.
Lithuania is restricting public movement and imposing a lockdown on major cities during Easter to stop the further spread of infection in the predominantly Catholic nation.
Greece also tightened restrictions ahead of next week’s Orthodox Easter celebrations, increasing police roadblocks along highways and secondary roads, doubling fines for lockdown violations and banning travel between islands.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious diseases expert, said the Trump administration has been working on plans to eventually reopen the country amid evidence that social distancing is working. But he said it’s not time to scale back such measures.
“Keep your foot on the accelerator because this is what is going to get us through this.”
In a potentially worrying development in South Korea, at least 74 people diagnosed as having recovered from the new coronavirus tested positive for a second time after they were released from hospital. Health authorities were testing their virus and serum samples to determine whether those patients could again be infectious to others.
Japan reported more than 500 new cases for the first time yesterday, a worrisome rise since it has the world’s oldest population and COVID-19 can be especially serious in the elderly.
India, whose 1.3 billion people are under a lockdown until next week, has sealed off dozens of hotspots in and around New Delhi, the capital. It will supply residents with food and medicine but won’t allow them to leave. The number of confirmed cases exceeds 5,000, with 166 deaths.
Worldwide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has climbed over 1.5 million, with more than 90,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are almost certainly much higher, because of limited testing, and different rules for counting the dead.