President Donald Trump pressed for a further reopening of the United States as job losses mount from coronavirus shutdowns, while China’s premier warned of ‘immense’ economic challenges even as the Asian giant emerges from the worst of the pandemic.
Calls to kickstart the world’s two largest economies came as large parts of Europe continued to resume normal life as the crisis there abates, with more shops opening and beaches welcoming tourists.
But the lifting of restrictions in some places comes despite virus cases passing five million globally, with the disease continuing its march in Latin America and Russia.
Trump, with an eye on his re-election prospects in November, made it clear he hoped more US state governors would move towards a loosening of anti-virus restrictions.
‘We did the right thing but we now want to get going... you’ll break the country if you don’t,’ he told African-American leaders in Michigan.
Another 2.43 million Americans were put out of work last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, bringing the total of newly jobless to 38.6 million since lockdowns were put in place.
The Republican incumbent also talked about reopening places of worship, something he had initially hoped would be done by Easter Sunday, saying it was important to the nation’s healing.
‘People want to be in their churches,’ Trump said. ‘They’re so important in terms of the psyche of our country.’
The president has adopted the theme of ‘Transitioning Back to Greatness’ as states reopen at different speeds.
Deaths are still mounting in the US, with the total surpassing 94,000, and Trump ordered flags at federal buildings be flown at half-staff for three days for the victims.
Across the Atlantic, much of Europe pressed on with work to get life rolling again, with Cyprus lifting curfews and allowing outdoor restaurants, barber shops and beaches to reopen.
But the Mediterranean island’s airports and hotels remain closed.
‘I want my work back and my life back,’ said Sakis Siakopoulos, a restaurant owner in the capital Nicosia.
In Denmark, the exit from lockdown also picked up pace as museums and zoos began reopening and health officials said the spread of the virus was slowing.
France, one of the countries hit hardest by the outbreak, saw its daily death toll dip to 83, providing a cause for optimism.
A closely watched survey by IHS Markit indicated the eurozone economy has now ‘likely bottomed out’, sparking hope that a recovery is to follow.
But while many European countries have significantly curbed the contagion, Latin America is becoming a new hotspot with cases on the rise.
Brazil — now home to the third-highest number of cases in the world after the US and Russia — has recorded more than 20,000 deaths and hit a record 24-hour toll of 1,188.
Grave diggers at a cemetery outside Sao Paulo are scrambling to keep up.
‘We’ve been working 12-hour days, burying them one after the other. It doesn’t stop,’ said one worker at Vila Formosa, wearing a white protective suit, mask and face shield.
Peru, Mexico and Chile have also seen steady increases in infections.
‘It’s like a horror film,’ Miguel Armas, a nurse at the Hipolito Unanue hospital in the Peruvian capital, said.
The death toll worldwide has now surpassed 330,000, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
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