World round-up: Spain re-extends state of emergency; UK likely to ease lockdown next week

More than 3.75 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 263,831 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
Chinas government has declared the whole country is low risk as the number of coronavirus cases fall to nearly zero. The countrys National Health Administration reported just two new coronavirus cases, both of them brought from overseas, and said 295 people remained in hospital with Covid-19. In addition, there have been no deaths reported from the virus for more than three weeks. Authorities shut an emergency field hospital in the region after the closing of the land border and strict social distancing measures appeared to have decreased new cases to zero. In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,885 cases of the virus that is believed to have originated in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.
The UKs coronavirus lockdown is likely to begin to be eased from Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said, as he promised to announce details to the nation this weekend. We will want, if we possibly can, to get going with some of these measures on Monday, Mr Johnson told parliament. He said he will set out the next phase of the coronavirus strategy in a public statement on Sunday because it would be a good thing if people knew what to expect before the changes came into operation the next day. As part of its plans to exit the lockdown, the government has already said it will roll out a mass programme of tracking and tracing coronavirus cases. Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Mr Johnson set a new goal to raise testing capacity to 200,000 a day by the end of the month, from about 108,000 now.
France said on Wednesday it was drawing up a contingency plan to reimpose restrictions if there is a spike in cases after next Monday, when it begins lifting one of Europes strictest lockdowns, imposed on March 17th. If the virus begins to circulate again intensively, we need to give ourselves the means locally to act immediately, Jean Castex, the Monsieur Deconfinement charged with organising Frances lockdown exit, told senators on Wednesday. Peoples adherence to physical distancing and washing hands was key to the success of the fight against the pandemic.
In Germany, Angela Merkel announced steps agreed with 16 federal state leaders to push ahead with lifting restrictions, with all students to return to school this month, all remaining shops to reopen, and top-flight football to resume. But wary of a second wave of cases, Dr Merkel confirmed plans for an emergency brake that would oblige municipalities to return to lockdown if there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a seven-week period.
Spains prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, said abruptly ending nearly eight weeks of lockdown would be absolutely wrong, a total, unforgivable error, as he secured parliamentary approval to re-extend the countrys state of emergency to May 24th, following days of bitter rowing and frantic negotiations.
Italy reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in four days on Wednesday, as prime minister Giuseppe Conte battles tensions within his coalition over a new stimulus package for the countrys paralyzed economy. Deaths in Italy climbed by 369 on Wednesday, while the daily tally of new infections also rose by 1,444.
The Danish government health agency SSI said it was highly likely that the epidemic would die out on its own in the short term, even as normal life starts to resume, but warned that the level of immunity in the population was low and there was a considerable risk that a second wave of the epidemic will come later.
Slovakia, which locked down harder and earlier than many of its neighbours, reopened restaurant terraces, hotels, shops outside large malls and other businesses on Wednesday thanks to better than expected progress. Small shops reopened on April 22nd. The government also gave the green light for religious services and weddings to take place with limited numbers of guests, after tests showed 11 consecutive days of single-digit growth in new infections.
Belgiums prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, said households could welcome up to four people into their home for repeat visits from this weekend, as long as they are the same four. Guests must keep to the approved 1.5-metre distance and meetings should if possible take place outdoors, she said.
Russia reported more than 10,000 new cases for a fourth day in a row, bringing its tally to 165,929. Moscows mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said restrictions would remain in place beyond the current May 11th deadline but companies involved in industry and construction would go back to work. The European commission has said Europe will experience a recession this year of a depth unmatched since the Great Depression. The blocs economy is forecast to contract by 7.5 per cent in 2020 and grow by around 6 per cent in 2021.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others citizens from May 15th, creating a Baltic travel bubble within the EU.
President Donald Trump has again suggested the US may need to accept the reality of more deaths in order to start reopening the economy, as governments around the world continued to ease out of lockdown restrictions. After backtracking on earlier indications that he would wind up the White House coronavirus taskforce, Mr Trump spelled out a potentially brutal approach to kickstarting the worlds biggest economy. We have to be warriors, Mr Trump told Fox News when asked if Americans should expect additional deaths as the country looks to reopen. We cant keep our country closed down for years. The president added: Hopefully that wont be the case, but it could very well be the case. By Thursday morning the number of cases in the US stood at more than 1.2 million and 73,431 deaths, with infections still on the rise in some states.
The number of coronavirus infections rose to 52,952 in India, up by 3,561 over the previous day, the health ministry said on Thursday, with no signs of abating despite a strict weeks-long lockdown in the worlds second most populous country. The death toll was up by 89 to 1783, still low compared with the United States, United Kingdom and Italy which officials said was because the government imposed the stay-at-home order on 1.3 billion people much earlier in the cycle. The spurt in cases has come from the densely packed metropolises of Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad which are also the growth engines of the economy.
New coronavirus infections in Iran have risen sharply since the country relaxed its restrictions on movement. Tehran on Wednesday reported 1,680 new infections, nearly double the figure four days ago and the highest daily figure since April 11th when it allowed a phased return to work amid fears of economic collapse. A ban on travel between cities and business at shopping malls has since also been lifted. We are witnessing a rising trend in the past three or four days, said a health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, blaming our behaviour, especially in the past two weeks. A part of society has apparently had a change of attitude. Iran has reported more than 100,000 Covid-19 cases and nearly 6,500 deaths.
Hairdressers, bars and competitive sport could be back on the agenda for New Zealanders from next week as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country was halfway down Everest in its fight against Covid-19. Ms Ardern and her cabinet will make a decision on downgrading the countrys alert level from three to two on Monday, and by Wednesday, life could begin to look much more normal – and fun – for millions of cooped-up Kiwis. The relaxation of restrictions, which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, was greeted with jubilation across the country.
Brazil, one of the worlds emerging coronavirus hot spots, registered a record number of cases and deaths on Wednesday, prompting the health minister to flag the possibility of strict lockdowns in particularly hard-hit areas. The nation registered 10,503 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, well above the previous record of 7,288 cases on April 30th, according to health ministry data. Brazil also registered 615 deaths, up from the previous record of 600 on Tuesday. There are over 100,000 completed coronavirus tests that still have not been registered in the national database, health ministry subsecretary Wanderson Oliveira warned, meaning case numbers could rise steeply in the coming days. Overall, Brazil has registered 125,218 cases and 8,536 deaths due to the virus. As part of Brazils bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak, officials said they were attempting to dramatically ramp up testing capacity from the current 2,700 tests per day.
Colombia declared a second state of emergency to support sectors of the economy that will remain shut down for an extended period. Mexico reported 1,609 new cases and 197 additional fatalities. At least 47 residents and three workers have been infected at a retirement home in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Confirmed cases in Peru have now exceeded 50,000 with in excess of 1,400 deaths. Ciro Maguia, an infectious disease specialist and vice-dean of Perus College of Physicians, said the worst stage of the outbreak was still ahead. I calculate that we should enter the peak of cases in mid-May, he said.
El Salvador will from Thursday temporarily suspend public transport and the measure would remain in place for 15 days. Total cases in Panama reached 7,731 on Wednesday, a rise of 208 from the previous day, and deaths climbed by eight to 218. Reuters, Guardian, PA, Bloomberg