The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus reached 100,000 as Christians around the globe marked a Good Friday unlike any other – in front of computer screens instead of in church pews – and some countries tiptoed toward reopening segments of their battered economies.
Around the world, public health officials and religious leaders alike warned people against violating the lockdowns and social distancing rules over Easter and allowing the virus to come storming back. Authorities resorted to roadblocks and other means to discourage travel.
In Italy, officials employed helicopters, drones and stepped-up police checks to make sure residents didn't slip out of their homes. On Thursday alone, police stopped some 300,000 people around Italy to check whether they had permission to travel. About 10,000 were issued summonses.
Some churches held services online, while others arranged prayers at drive-in theatres. Fire-scarred Notre Dame Cathedral came back to life briefly in Paris, days before the first anniversary of the April 15 inferno that ravaged it. Services were broadcast from the closed-to-the-public cathedral.
The death toll kept by Johns Hopkins University neared another sad milestone, though the true number of lives lost is believed be much higher because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and cover-ups by some governments. The number confirmed to be infected was more than 1.6 million.
With the pandemic slamming economies, the head of the International Monetary Fund warned that the global economy is headed for the worst recession since the Depression.
In Europe, the 19 countries that use the euro currency overcame weeks of bitter divisions to agree on spending US$550 billion to cushion the recession caused by the virus. Mario Centeno, who heads the eurozone finance ministers’ group, called the package “totally unprecedented. ... Tonight Europe has shown it can deliver when the will is there.”
As weeks of lockdowns were extended in nation after nation, governments were pressed to ease restrictions on key businesses and industries.
After a two-week freeze on all nonessential economic activity, Spain decided to allow factories and construction sites to resume work on Monday, while schools, most shops and offices will remain closed. Spanish authorities said they trust that the move won’t cause a significant surge in infections.
“We wouldn’t be adopting them otherwise,” said María José Sierra of Spain’s health emergency centre. (AP)
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