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Coronavirus pandemic: How the worst-hit countries are preparing for next phase of lockdown

United States tentatively eased coronavirus lockdowns after weeks of battling the pandemic, experts across the world have warned of a resurgence of the virus. A downward trend in the number of Covid-19 cases had prompted leaders across the world to try revive their economies, entering into a second-phase of restrictions.

Senior German health official Lars Schaade Thursday said a second coronavirus wave could hit Germany before autumn, just as the country is opening up its economy again. “Case numbers are falling but this is not an all-clear signal,” AlJazeera quoted Schaade.

The Spanish flu’s second wave is said to have been far more deadlier than its first, in part because authorities allowed mass gatherings from Philadelphia to San Francisco. The influenza pandemic had claimed between 17 million and 50 million lives in 1918.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned countries emerging from lockdowns to proceed “extremely carefully” or risk a rapid rise in new cases. “The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully and in a phased approach,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that nations need to ensure they had adequate measures to control the spreading contagion like tracking system and quarantine provisions.

Here’s how countries hard-hit by coronavirus plan to tackle the second wave:

Germany to apply ’emergency brake’ in phase-2 of lockdown

As Germany ended its first phase of the lockdown, reopening schools and resuming sports, it also said the plan would include an “emergency brake”. Under the latest plan, restrictions would be re-imposed if an area registers more than 50 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days. “If something happens locally, we won’t wait until it has spread through the whole republic, but rather we will act locally,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting with the country’s 16 governors, news agency Reuters reported.

The country went into lockdown in March and has recorded at least 7,275 deaths linked to the virus and 168,162 confirmed cases, as per the data provided by Johns Hopkins University.

Stating there was still a long way to go in the battle against the virus, Merkel said the government will decide the economic stimulus package in June. Relieving the nation from the stringent lockdown, the government will allow people from two households to meet, and more shops will open, provided hygiene measures are in place. However, all relaxations will follow an underlying rule on keeping distance of 1.5 metres (5 feet) from each other and wearing masks covering mouth and nose on public transport.

Italy bars friends from meeting, shops closed till May 18

After living through the country’s longest lockdown lasting nearly two months, Italy cautiously eased a few restrictions, while keeping many others in place. The rollback has allowed 4.5 million Italians to return to the pre-lockdown situation, reopening cafes for takeaways.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had said, “If we want to avoid painful backward steps now more than ever, we need cooperation, a sense of responsibility, respect for the rules by all.” Earlier this week, Conte said Italy has been reporting over a thousand cases everyday, despite the downward trend in new infections and is still in “full throes of the pandemic”.

Keeping note of the fresh relaxations introduced in the country, Italy barred friends from meeting up, directing that most shops will remain shut till May 18. Schools, cinemas and theatres will remain closed indefinitely. As much as Italians welcome a lenient lockdown, many fear if the government’s decision was a little too soon. The country has, so far, recorded 29,684 deaths due to the novel virus and 214,547 persons are infected by it.

Americans over 60 to remain cautious

With United States still the epicentre of the pandemic, some states including Mississippi and Botswana have eased restrictions and are planning to enter phase two of the lockdown. In New York city, which has managed to lower the Covid-linked deaths dramatically, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that some states may be reopening too quickly, news agency Associated Press stated. “My message to the rest of the country is learn from how much effort, how much discipline it took to finally bring these numbers down and follow the same path until you are sure that it is being beaten back,” he said on CNN, “or else, if this thing boomerangs, you are putting off any kind of restart or recovery a hell of a lot longer.”

Pressing to reopen economic activities amid a surging number of cases, President Donald Trump cited an example that Americans over the age of 60 and especially those with comorbidities like diabetes or heart problems should remain cautious about returning to work or public spaces. He tweeted that the task force will continue meeting indefinitely with a “focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN”.

UK PM Boris Jonhson to announce ‘unlockdown’ soon

Rising past Italy’s coronavirus death toll, Britain has emerged as the hardest-hit country in Europe with over 30,000 deaths and 202,359 cases. As UK remains the epicentre of Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country is past the peak of the pandemic and plans for a “unlockdown” next week. Johsnon will address the nation on Sunday.

The UK government has begun recruiting 18,000 people to trace contacts of those infected and a new target has been set where 2 lakh people will be tested by the end of the month, The Guardian reported.

The scientists from Edinburgh University, meanwhile, suggested that Britain could exit the lockdown by “segmenting and shielding” where protection is beefed up for those above 70 and vulnerable people, as per The Guardian. They recommend that an lockdown be extended for older people to 13 weeks. It said the outcome for a longer lockdown for people over 70 was a reduction in deaths of up to 35% – or up to 50% if combined with other measures such as isolation of those showing symptoms and their households.

Spain extends lockdown by two weeks, masks made compulsory

Once the epicentre of the virus in Europe, Spain extended the state of emergency by two weeks despite losing some important support from political rivals. The new lockdown will now last till May 24. The country, earlier this week, allowed its people to leave their homes for outdoor exercise as the government eased the lockdown.

While the country grapples to contain the spread of the virus, it has made wearing masks compulsory on public transport from this week. Their use had been, until now, only “highly recommended”. To limit the risk of resurgence, people above the age of 70 have been allowed to go out for two hours in the morning starting 10 am and one hour from 7 pm. Meanwhile, before and after this slot, adolescents above the age of 14 and adults can leave to go for walks of less than 1 km but only two at a time from the same household. People also cannot meet others outside their own houses. Travel between regions will not be permitted until the end of June at the earliest.

The virus has claimed at least 25,857 lives in Spain with 220,325 positive cases.

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