COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Tattoo parlors and hair salons in Denmark. Beaches in Australia. Bookstores in Germany. Countries around the world that have seen coronavirus infections flatten out began easing their lockdowns today, while the U.S. moved more cautiously and the debate took on an increasingly political edge.
Over the past few days, President Donald Trump openly encouraged protesters who have been demanding the lifting of the state-imposed stay-at-home orders, and some states — mostly those under Republican leaders — have taken steps to relax some restrictions. But other governors have warned that they can’t move ahead without help from the federal government in expanding testing.
Around the globe, the game plan is to open up but maintain enough social distancing to prevent new flareups of the virus that has infected 2.4 million people worldwide, killed more than 165,000 and crippled the world economy.
The easing of the lockdowns “is not the end of the epidemic in any country. It’s just the beginning of the next phase,” the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told G-20 health ministers in an online meeting.
He sternly warned governments not to rush to return to normal, saying, “It is critical that these measures are a phased process.”
The death toll in the U.S., the worst-hit country by far, was more than 40,000 with over 750,000 confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University of government reports. The true figures are believed to be much higher, in part because of limited and difficulties in counting the dead.
While Trump and members of his administration say parts of the nation are ready to begin a gradual return to normalcy, many governors say they lack the testing supplies they need and warn that if they reopen their economies too soon, they could get hit by a second wave of infections.
“We showed that we can control the beast and when you close down, you can actually slow that infection rate, but this is only halftime,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We still have to make sure that we keep that beast under control, we keep that infection rate down.’’
Egged on by the president, protesters have taken to the streets in some states, complaining that the shutdowns are destroying their livelihoods and trampling their rights. Defying the social-distancing rules and, in some cases, wearing no masks, demonstrators have berated their governors and demanded the firing of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert.
But today, Fauci warned: “Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen.”