A tentative easing around the world of coronavirus lockdowns gathered pace Saturday with the reopening in India of neighborhood stores that many of the country's 1.3 billion people rely on for everything from cold drinks to mobile phone data cards, the AP reports. In the US, the states of Georgia, Oklahoma, and Alaska have begun loosening lockdown orders on their pandemic-wounded businesses, even as the confirmed US death toll from the coronavirus soared past 50,000 and health experts warned that such steps might be coming too soon. For more:
- The relaxation of the Indian lockdown came with major caveats. It did not apply to hundreds of quarantined towns and other places hit hardest by the outbreak that has killed at least 775 people in the country and terrified its multitudes of poor who live in slum conditions too crowded for social distancing. Shopping malls also stayed closed nationwide.
- Still, for families that run small stores, being able to earn again brought relief. Last week, India also allowed manufacturing and farming to resume in rural areas to ease the economic plight of millions left jobless by the lockdown imposed March 24. India's restrictions have allowed people out of their homes only to buy food, medicine, or other essentials.
- In Europe, Belgium sketched out plans for a progressive lockdown relaxation starting May 4 with the resumption of nonessential treatment in hospitals and the reopening of textile and sewing shops so people can make face masks.
- Italy said free protective masks will be distributed to nursing homes, police, public officials and transport workers, preparing for the return to work of millions when lockdown restrictions are eased from May 4.
- Kids in Spain will get their first fresh air in weeks on Sunday when a total ban on letting them outside is relaxed. After 44 days indoors, they'll be allowed to take one toy or scooter with them but not play together for the adult-supervised one-hour excursions no farther than half a mile from home.
- Britain is still holding off on changes to its lockdown as the coronavirus-related death toll in hospitals topped 20,000. The figure does not include deaths in nursing homes, which are likely to be in the thousands.
- In France, the government is preparing to gingerly ease one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns from May 11. The health minister detailed plans to scale up testing to help contain any new flare-ups.
- In Sri Lanka, however, the lockdown was tightened, not eased, confirming a pattern of one-step-forward, one-step-back also seen elsewhere in the pandemic. Sri Lanka had partially lifted a monthlong curfew during daytime hours in more than two thirds of the country. But it reimposed a 24-hour lockdown countrywide after a surge Friday of 46 new infections.
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