By JONATHAN DREW – Japan Today
As coronavirus-induced economic pain grew around the world, some U.S. states moved forward Friday with plans to reopen their economies, while European countries held muted commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on the continent.
Around the UK, residents were encouraged to stand on their doorsteps and sing together while socially distanced to commemorate the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, South Korea, seen as a model for containing COVID-19, ordered nightclubs closed for a month and considered delaying a school restart after an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Friction arose where national governments disagreed with their local counterparts over business restrictions. In Italy, the government vowed legal action against a province seeking to ease restrictions faster than the country as a whole. In Brazil, the reverse happened as the country’s president asked the high court to rein in local governments imposing more restrictions than he would like.
A patchwork reopening in the United States included Texas allowing hair salons and barbershops to welcome back customers, while California took more modest steps to let retailers resume curbside operations with employees in masks.
The slow march toward reopening the economy comes as the U.S. reported a jobless rate of 14.7% in April, a level not seen since the Great Depression.
Among those whose finances were thrown into turmoil is Martin Brossman of Raleigh, North Carolina, who saw two-thirds of his income as a professional coach and speaker disappear since the pandemic.
“I had thousands of dollars in keynote speaking go away overnight,” Brossman said.
He said he wasn’t waiting for word on the unemployment benefit application he filed weeks ago. Instead, he is retooling his business for a world that will rely more on remote activities.
“I don’t think this is the last time that a problem like this occurs,” he said, so “whatever way we can do business … if this happens again, we have a new income stream.”
Here is a look at COVID-19 developments around the world.
SOMBER V-E DAY
Across Europe, celebrations marking the May 8, 1945, surrender of Germany were canceled or scaled back dramatically due to COVID-19. Many were asked to mark the moment in private.
In the UK, people were encouraged to sing the iconic wartime anthem, “We’ll Meet Again” from their homes — a song with added resonance now as lockdowns separate family and friends.
In France, a strict lockdown prompted a somber Victory Day commemoration. President Emmanuel Macron led a small ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, accompanied by two former French presidents, all observing social distancing. Macron used hand sanitizer after signing the official register.
Elsewhere in Europe, friction arose in Italy, where northern Bolzano province sought to reopen stores this weekend in defiance of a national plan to wait until later this month. While the province cited a special statute granting it some autonomy, the Rome government planned a legal challenge. Italy has recorded more than 217,000 cases and more than 30,200 deaths.
Spain’s health minister announced the government will relax restrictions in areas home to half the country’s population next week because they met virus trend targets. Current restrictions will remain elsewhere, including Madrid.
U.S. MAKES SOME MOVES TO REOPEN
In Texas, where the Republican governor was praised by President Donald Trump for loosening restrictions, hair salons and barber shops were allowed to reopen Friday, following earlier restarts of restaurants and retailers.
California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the first statewide stay-home order in the U.S., was taking more modest steps. The Democrat allowed clothing stores, sporting goods, florists and other retailers to start operating curbside pickup Friday, with many employees required to wear masks.
Pennsylvania announced that 13 counties, including much of the Pittsburgh area, can loosen restrictions next week, following a similar move for a swath of rural northern Pennsylvania.
The moves came as the U.S. recorded more than 1.27 million cases and more than 76,000 deaths as of Friday. Massachusetts, with at least 73,000 cases and 4,500 deaths, and Illinois, with 70,000 cases and 3,000 deaths, are areas where stay-home orders remain in effect until later this month.
SOUTH KOREAN RESTRICTIONS
South Korea closed nightclubs on Friday for a month and indicated it may delay reopening schools after more than a dozen new infections were linked to a nightclub patron in its capital city.
Schools were supposed to begin reopening next week, but fears of a resurgence came after 25 new infections were reported Friday, marking South Korea’s first jump above 10 cases in five days. Before the uptick, improving trends allowed officials to relax distancing guidelines and schedule a phased school reopening.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there’s no plan to welcome back international travelers for the foreseeable future, despite plans to reopen the economy in stages by July. However, Morrison said he was was open to international students returning to universities.
Brazil’s fifth-largest city, Fortaleza, on Friday became the nation’s third metropolis and its most populous yet to start a virus-related lockdown, with the local measures prompting friction with the country’s leader.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who contends business shutdowns are more harmful than COVID-19 itself, asked the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday to force states to roll back restrictive measures even as deaths and overall case counts surge. The country has had over 140,000 cases and 9,600 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, Kuwait is re-imposing a full lockdown in the oil-rich nation beginning Sunday that will last through May 30. Kuwait now has over 7,200 confirmed cases of the virus and 47 deaths. A previous lockdown had been loosened amid the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.