AP

Countries take different approaches in lifting lockdown

Apr 24, 2020, 5:55 AM
Children wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus watch soap bu...
Children wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus watch soap bubbles fly at the Chogyesa temple in South Korea, Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

MADRID (AP) — Without a tried-and-tested action plan for how to pull countries out of lockdown, the world is seeing a patchwork of approaches. Schools reopen in one country, stay closed in others; face masks are an obligation here, a simple recommendation there.

Kids still attend soccer practice in Sweden while they are not even allowed outside in Spain. In the U.S state of Georgia, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys were being allowed to reopen Friday even as American hospitals still heave with virus emergencies. In other parts of the globe, the prospect of a haircut is still weeks away.

There is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. As governments and scientists fumble around, still struggling with so many unknowns, individuals are being left to take potentially life-affecting decisions.

In France, for instance, the government is leaving families to decide whether to keep children at home or send them back to class when the nationwide lockdown, in place since March 17, starts to be eased from May 11.

“It is hard to decide,” said Helene Alston, a French tax lawyer with a daughter and a son in middle school. “I think I will send them back to school because it allows us to restore a bit of normality in our lives.”

But “we don’t want to deliberately put them in a dangerous situation,” she said Friday. “I might change my mind.”

In Spain, parents face a similarly knotty decision: whether to let kids get their first fresh air in weeks when the country on Sunday starts to ease the total ban on letting them outside. Even then, they will still have to abide to a “1-1-1” rule: no more than one hour per day, within a 1 kilometer radius of their house and with no more than one supervising adult.

The imperative to reopen is largely driven by economics, with lockdowns bleeding companies and government coffers of cash. In a trend seen around the globe, roughly 26 million Americans have filed for jobless aid in five weeks, pushing unemployment to levels last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s and raising the stakes over how and when to ease shutdowns of factories and other businesses.

But the risk of reopening too much, too fast is possible fresh infection spikes that again overwhelm hospital ICUs.

Japan initially seemed to have controlled the outbreak by going after clusters of infections. But on Friday, Japanese medical experts issued a stark warning that the country’s emergency medicine resources are starting to collapse amid dire shortages of protective gear and test kits.

“We can no longer operate normally, and in that sense I say the collapse of emergency medicine has already started,” said Takeshi Shimazu, head of Japanese Association for Acute Medicine. “I’m most concerned about a collapse of healthcare for the critically ill patients.”

The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including more than 100,000 in Europe and nearly 50,000 in the United States, according to a tally compiled by John Hopkins University from government figures. The true numbers are undoubtedly far higher, and new cases are surging in Africa and Latin America as outbreaks subside in some places hit earlier.

Some U.S. governors have begun loosening up despite warnings from health authorities that it may be too soon to do so without sparking a second wave of infections.

A major meatpacking plant in northern Colorado that closed because of an outbreak that killed four workers was set to reopen Friday after a two-week disinfection, even as some questioned how employees can maintain social distancing inside the facility.

On the economic front, few experts foresee a downturn as severe as the Great Depression, when unemployment remained above 14% from 1931 to 1940, peaking at 25%. But unemployment is considered likely to remain elevated well into next year and probably beyond, and will surely top the 10% peak of the 2008-09 recession.

Janet Simon, laid off as a waitress at a Miami IHOP restaurant, said she has just $200 and is panicking over how she will care for her three children. Simon, 33, filed for unemployment a month ago, and her application is still listed as “pending.”

“I’m doing everything to keep my family safe, my children safe, but everything else around me is falling apart,” Simon said. “But they see it, no matter how much I try to hide my despair.”

Huge lines have formed at food banks from El Paso, Texas, to the Paris suburbs, and food shortages are hitting Africa especially hard.

In Africa, COVID-19 cases have surged 43% in the past week to 26,000, according to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figures underscored a World Health Organization warning that the virus could kill more than 300,000 people in Africa and push 30 million into desperate poverty.

In Muslim communities, the pandemic was casting a shadow over the holy month of Ramadan — marked by daytime fasting, overnight festivities and communal prayer. Ramadan begins for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims with this week’s new moon. Many Muslim leaders have closed mosques or banned collective evening prayer to ward off infections.

The virus has already disrupted Christianity’s Holy Week, Judaism’s Passover, the Muslim hajj pilgrimage and other major religious events.

While the health crisis has eased in places like Italy, Spain and France, experts say it is far from over, and the threat of new outbreaks looms large.

“The question is not whether there will be a second wave,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO’s Europe office. “The question is whether we will take into account the biggest lessons so far.”

___

Leicester reported from Le Pecq, France. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed.

___

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
1 day ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
3 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
4 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
5 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
5 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Countries take different approaches in lifting lockdown