Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg extended their confinements until the beginning of May, with some easing. Wearing a mask will be recommended, and even compulsory in Luxembourg.
While the coronavirus epidemic has officially infected more than two million people worldwide, and Donald Trump announced Tuesday the suspension of the American contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO), the latter has warned, Wednesday, April 15, against a “risk of resurgence” of the virus in case of release.
In Europe, the continent most affected – which accounts for half of the diagnosed cases -, however, there are timid attempts to deconfinement the population.
Over 131,000 dead worldwide, most of them in Europe
More than a million cases of contamination have been officially diagnosed in Europe, just over half the world total, according to a count by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday morning.
Worldwide, 2,029,917 cases and 131,319 deaths have been reported. With more than half of the cases of contamination and two thirds of the deaths, Europe is the continent most affected by the pandemic. This number of cases, however, only reflects a fraction of the actual number of infections, with many countries now testing only those cases requiring hospital care.
The five most affected European countries, officially counting nearly 100,000 cases, are:
- Spain (172,541 cases, 18,056 deaths);
- Italy (162,488 cases, 21,067 deaths);
- France (143,303 cases, 15,729 deaths);
- Germany (127,584 cases, 3,254 deaths);
- the United Kingdom (98,476, 12,868 dead).
Warnings against too rapid and uncoordinated deconfinement
If the resumption of activity is still far away for many countries in Europe, some have started to initiate or sketch a timid deconfinement, thanks to a slight improvement in health. This was the case, on Wednesday, of Lithuania and Austria, which authorized the careful reopening of its small shops and public gardens; Spain, which has authorized the reopening of certain factories and construction sites; or from Italy, with localized and very limited reopening of certain businesses.
Germany has added to it: entering an economic recession, it will loosen its restrictive measures by reopening shops, then, from May 4, its schools and high schools. Large gatherings, such as sports competitions or concerts, will remain banned until at least August 31, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced after meeting with leaders of the sixteen Länder (regional states). The country’s “milestone success” remains “fragile,” warned the leader.
Others, such as France and Belgium, have decided to extend the confinement period. These measures are taken at the level of each country, while international authorities fear that uncoordinated deconfinement will cause a second wave of contamination. To prevent this within the EU, the European Commission presented its roadmap on the matter on Wednesday and insisted on the need for “coordinated action”, raising the risk of “negative effects on all member states” .
For the World Health Organization (WHO), too quick a relaxation of the restrictive measures would nullify all the efforts made so far. She recommends a delay of at least two weeks, corresponding to the incubation period of the disease, between each phase of deconfinement, in order to assess the impact. Each country should implement a comprehensive policy of sanitary measures to maintain a stable, sustainable state of low transmission, or even no transmission, and be prepared to react quickly to control any spread.
Containment still in effect worldwide
The deconfinement is eagerly awaited by more than half of humanity, cloistered at home at the request of the authorities, with an exacerbation of social inequalities. But the return to work, well underway in China, where the epidemic first appeared in December before being largely contained there, is far from the order of the day in many other countries.
The containment measures in force in Belgium since mid-March are extended until May 3 inclusive, and no “mass event” can be organized before August 31, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced on Wednesday.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of his country’s confinement of 1.3 billion people until at least May 3.
In South Africa, in a poor suburb of Cape Town, the police dispersed rubber bullets to confined residents, furious at not receiving food.
Iran, where restrictions have been in effect for several weeks, said it had recorded fewer than 100 deaths for the second day in a row. It is one of the most affected countries in the world, which is gradually trying to revive its economic activity, already hit by American sanctions.
G20 approves temporary suspension of debt service for the poorest countries
Finance Ministers and Central Bankers of the Group of Twenty (G20) – South Africa, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, South Africa South Korea, the United States, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey and the European Union – approved a suspension provisional debt service for the poorest countries. “We have agreed on a coordinated approach with a common timetable providing the main characteristics of this initiative (…), which has also been approved by the Paris Club. “All official bilateral creditors will participate in this initiative,” said the G20, also urging private creditors to participate in it.
In the process, the Saudi Minister of Finance said that this measure was effective “immediately”:
“This debt suspension is a really important announcement, which means that poor countries don’t need to worry about meeting their maturities in the next twelve months. ”
Before this announcement, Emmanuel Macron said in an interview broadcast by Radio France International (RFI) that a moratorium, that is to say a delay, on the debt of African countries was “an essential step” to help the continent to cross the crisis due to the coronavirus, while waiting for a total cancellation of this debt. “We absolutely must help Africa build its capacities to respond to the health shock and we must, a fortiori, help it economically,” he insisted.
Donald Trump suspends US contribution to WHO
The United States, the main donor of the WHO, with more than 400 million dollars (360 million euros) per year, will cut its supplies long enough to assess its role “in the mismanagement and concealment of the spread of the coronavirus, “said the President. He criticized the United Nations (UN) agency for aligning itself with the positions of China, which, according to Washington, hid the severity of the virus when it first appeared in December. Which, he said, prevented the epidemic from being contained “at its source with very few deaths.”
A decision that the WHO “regrets”, and whose impact it will study and how to compensate for it, reacted the director general of the UN agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. For UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “this is not the time to cut funding for the operations of WHO or any other humanitarian agency fighting” the coronavirus, and there will always be time to study by the rest “how did all those involved in the crisis react”.
The functioning of the WHO has shown “gaps” in its management of the crisis due to the coronavirus, had for its part estimated the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, calling for a new “health multilateralism” . But the institution “is essential for managing the current crisis (…). It alone has the capacity to work with all governments to coordinate the health response and the rapid sharing of scientific information, “the ministry said in a statement in the evening.
In early April, the WHO president urged President Trump not to “politicize” the virus by carrying out his threat to end US funding.
The United States is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus, with more than 600,000 cases of contamination recorded and 26,033 deaths in total, including 2,228 additional deaths in twenty-four hours Tuesday, the heaviest daily toll recorded by a country, according to the Johns-Hopkins University count. In New York State, the death toll has increased again with 778 new deaths in the past twenty-four hours, for a total of more than 10,800 deaths, even if the slowdown of the pandemic seems to be confirmed.