Spain let children go outside and play Sunday for the first time in six weeks as European countries methodically worked to ease their lockdowns and reopen their economies, while in the United States, governors moved at differing speeds, some more aggressive, others more cautious.
Elsewhere around the world, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson planned to go back to work Monday at 10 Downing St. after a bout with the coronavirus that put him in intensive care.
Meanwhile in the US, governors in states like hard-hit New York and Michigan are keeping stay-at-home restrictions in place until at least mid-May, their counterparts in Georgia and Oklahoma have allowed salons, spas and barbershops to reopen. And Alaska cleared the way for restaurants to resume dine-in service and for stores and other businesses to open, with limitations.
The official death toll from the virus topped 200,000 worldwide, with 2.9 million confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, though the real figures are believed to be much higher, in part because of inadequate testing and differences in counting the dead.
Italy, Britain, Spain and France accounted for more than 20,000 deaths each, the U.S. for more than 55,000.
Some encouraging signs were seen, as Italy recorded its lowest 24-hour number of deaths since mid-March, with 260, and New York state registered its fewest since late last month, with 367.
Still, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded a cautious note about any reopening, though he acknowledged officials need to think about safe activities people can engage in as the crisis wears on.
“You can’t tell people in a dense urban environment all through the summer months: ‘We don’t have anything for you to do,’” the Democrat said. “There’s a sanity equation we need to pay attention to.”
With infections and deaths easing in three of the hardest-hit spots in Europe, people in Italy, France and Spain were eager to hear their leaders’ plans for easing some of the world’s strictest lockdowns. In Spain, the streets echoed again Sunday with children’s shrieks of joy and the clatter of bicycles.
After 44 days in seclusion, children under 14 were allowed out with one parent for up to an hour, as long as they stayed within 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) of their homes, took only one toy and did not play with other youngsters.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will present a detailed plan Tuesday for the “de-escalation” of Spain’s lockdown. His French counterpart likewise said he will unveil a “national deconfinement strategy” on the same day.
“Maximum caution will be our guideline for the rollback,” Sanchez said. “We must be very prudent, because there is no manual, no road map, to follow.”
Italy’s Premier Giuseppe Conte is expected to announce more details on easing the lockdown there in the coming days. Conte said priorities include restarting construction projects and export industries. He confirmed that school classes won’t resume until September.
As Britain’s prime minister returns to work, he faces calls for more clarity on when his government will ease the lockdown, now set to run until at least May 7.
Other European nations are further along in easing lockdowns. Germany allowed nonessential shops and other facilities to open last week, and Denmark has reopened schools for children up to fifth grade.
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disaster began late last year, said all major construction projects have resumed as authorities push to restart factory production and other economic activity after a 2 1/2-month lockdown.