With over three million corona-positive cases and counting and over third of global population passing under some sort of mobility restrictions—lockdown, quarantine and social distancing—for over six weeks now, there are some positive signals coming out this week from across the world. Braving coronavirus fears, the world has started opening up, though cautiously. The positive signals emerged from the “pristine” Pacific coast as New Zealand and Australia began easing social distancing restrictions on Tuesday on the recorded decline in corona cases there in last two weeks. While claiming to maintain that strict level, New Zealand plans to open some non-essential businesses, including food takeaways, health and education services and would ask its citizens to stay at home unless they are out buying groceries and exercising. It is to recall that the country had enforced one of the toughest lockdowns in mid-March, shutting most businesses as it sought to eliminate the virus, and not contain and go in prevention mode.
Australia too reopened Sydney’s famous Bondi beach on Tuesday to local swimmers and surfers after a month long closure. There is more to open, say officials and leaders of these two nations, encouraging others around the world to lift the lockdown barriers gradually. In fact, the worst-hit Europe is mulling different levels of easing out of lockdown as Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Austria are among the European countries taking steps to end the lockdown. Of the worst-hit nations – Spain, Italy and France have signalled that the lockdown may start to ease between 4 May and 12 May, reports suggest. Spain, which has the second highest corona death toll after the United States, has enforced one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. Since restrictions began on 14 March, Spanish children under 14 years have faced toughest restricts and have stayed indoors. Now it’s time for them to have fresh air as they are allowed since Sunday to play outdoors. Now from coming weekend, It is learnt, adults will also be allowed to exercise or to go for a walk outside. But restrictions will largely remain until mid-May and schools in Spain are not opening until September. Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark are moving ahead with eased-out restrictions, asking schools to open and allow students above 11 years to join.
Although the parents are in no mood to send children in Danish schools, fearing the virus might recur. Denmark was the second country in Europe to go under lockdown. While it is opening up to boost businesses and put schools back on track, it has still restricted any gathering above 10 persons. Governments across Europe are battling as how to lift restrictions amidst a looming economic collapse in sight. But with Germany again showing rise in cases after easing restrictions, there are murmurs of rollback on ease out, particularly from France, which is watching the cases closely. Paris has made it clear, according local media, while major restrictions remain until May 11, a final decision to lift lockdown completely rests on the corona tally then. Avoiding the second wave of contagion while helping the economy recover from a complete slump is what Europe is currently trying to do.
France has listed a strict code while easing restrictions: Masks are compulsory on public transport, with passengers leaving every other seat empty. Gathering will not exceed 10 persons, as Denmark has done. But unlike Bondi in Sydney, beaches and some parks will remain closed at least until 1 June. France has also asked religious authorities not to organise services before 2 June and after reassessing towards the end of May, a call will be taken whether and when cafes, bars and restaurants could be reopened, and if summer holidays will be extended to avoid any virus recurrence. The entire West Asia, most of which is in “virtual Ramzan festive mood”, has started to ease out in a graded manner. India must be watching these developments with caution and reasoning as it stands to announce the decider – extend lockdown or lift restrictions. Perhaps a little wait as the US states are being urged would be the advisable step to contain the virus further, if not completely annihilate it. Most American states are in no mood to wait, although the highest death count is only factor stopping most. Corona-positive cases in India have crossed the 31,000 mark and while it records the positive recovery rate of Covid patients in quarantine, it also has seen the highest deaths in a day on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces one of the toughest decisions of his political career.