The death toll worldwide from the coronavirus has reached 100,000 as Christians around the world celebrated Good Friday like no other – in front of computer screens rather than in church pews – and some countries are are headed toward reopening segments of their battered economies.
Around the world, public health officials and religious leaders have warned people against breaking the rules of social lockdown and distancing at Easter and against the return of the virus. Authorities have used roadblocks and other means to discourage travel.
In Italy, authorities used helicopters, drones, and reinforced police checks to ensure residents did not slip out of their homes. Just Thursday, police arrested around 300,000 people across Italy to check if they were allowed to travel. Approximately 10,000 were summoned to appear.
Some churches held online services, while others held prayers in driving theaters. Notre-Dame Cathedral marked by fire returned briefly to Paris, a few days before the first anniversary of the April 15 hell that ravaged it. Services have been broadcast from the cathedral closed to the public.
The holiday celebrations took place as the number of deaths worldwide tracked by Johns Hopkins University has reached a dark plateau of 100,000 since the end of December when the epidemic began in China. More than 1.6 million people worldwide have been infected, according to the university’s tally.
The actual number of lives lost would be much higher due to limited testing, cover-ups from certain governments and different counting practices. For example, in places like New York, Italy and Spain, many victims who died outside of a hospital – say, in a home or nursing home – were not counted.
In the United States, the death toll has reached approximately 18,000, which puts it on track to overtake Italy as the country with the highest number of deaths, and about half a million Americans have have been confirmed infected. More than 40% of the deaths in the United States were in New York State. Still, there were signs of hope.
New York State reported 777 new deaths, down slightly from the previous day, for an overall toll of more than 7,800.
“I understand intellectually why this is happening,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “” It does not facilitate acceptance. “
But authorities say the number of people in intensive care has dropped for the first time since mid-March and hospitalizations are slowing: 290 new patients in a single day, up from a daily increase of more than 1,000 last week .
Cuomo said if the trend continues, New York may not need the overflow field hospitals that officials have strived to build.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Jolion McGreevy, medical director of the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital. “It’s better, but it’s not like it’s going to fall overnight. I think it will continue to decline slowly over the next few weeks and months. “
With the pandemic hitting economies, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned that the world economy is headed for the worst recession since the depression.
In Europe, the 19 countries that use the euro have overcome weeks of bitter divisions to agree to spend $ 550 billion to cushion the recession caused by the virus. Mario Centeno, who heads the group of eurozone finance ministers, called the package “completely unprecedented.” (…) Tonight, Europe has shown that it can hold on when the will is there.
As weeks of closings have been extended from nation to nation, governments have been urged to ease restrictions on key businesses and industries.
After a two-week freeze on all non-core economic activity, Spain has decided to allow factories and construction sites to resume work on Monday, while schools, most stores and offices will remain closed. The Spanish authorities have declared that they are convinced that this decision will not cause a significant increase in infections.
“We wouldn’t adopt them any other way,” said Maria Jose Sierra, of the Spanish health emergency center.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that a premature lifting of restrictions could “lead to a deadly resurgence.”
In Italy, industrial lobbies in regions accounting for 45% of the country’s economic output have urged the government to loosen its two-week lockout on all non-essential manufacturing activities, saying the country “risks closing its own engine permanently , and every day that passes the risk “grows so that it cannot be restarted. “
Italy has reported an additional 570 deaths for a total of more than 18,800, but said that the number of hospital admissions is decreasing as well as the number of intensive care patients.
The Malaysian Prime Minister announced a two-week extension to the closure of the country, but said that certain economic sectors could reopen in stages while following strict hygiene rules.
In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, people are in desperate need of stamped food, passing through a door in a district office in the Kibera slum. Police fired tear gas, injuring several people.
In Japan, the world’s third largest economy, many have criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as being too slow to act on the pandemic. In a rare reprimand, the Japanese prefecture of Aichi, which is home to automaker Toyota, declared its own state of emergency, saying it could not wait for the government.
“The situation is critical,” said Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura. “We have decided to do everything we can to protect the life and health of the residents of Aichi. “
Japan has the oldest population in the world and COVID-19 can be particularly serious for the elderly.
In some of the most affected countries, Italy and Spain, new infections, hospitalizations and deaths are stabilizing. But the daily tolls remain shocking.
The 605 new deaths announced in Spain were the lowest in more than two weeks. The coronavirus has killed more than 15,800 people there, although the rates of contagion and death are declining.
Britain recorded 980 new deaths, its highest daily total, for almost 9,000 in all.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was withdrawn from intensive care on Thursday after spending three nights there for treatment for the virus. The 55-year-old man remained hospitalized in London. His father, Stanley Johnson, said that the Prime Minister must “rest” before returning to work.
Sedensky reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.