WHO warns of rush to relax virus rules could cause resurgence

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BANGKOK –
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that rushing to ease restrictions on coronaviruses would likely result in a resurgence of the disease, a warning that comes when governments start implementing plans to revive their economies.

“Now is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to prepare for a new way of life for the foreseeable future, “said Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and that the lifting of blockades and other measures of social distancing must be done gradually and strike the right balance between maintaining people’s health and keeping economies running.

Despite concerns from health officials, some states have announced aggressive plans to reopen on Monday, while Boeing and at least one other heavy equipment maker have resumed production. Elsewhere in the world, progressive reopenings were underway in Europe, where the crisis began to ebb in places like Italy, Spain and Germany.

Australia said Tuesday it will allow non-emergency surgery to resume next week, with health officials increasingly convinced that hospitals will not be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

The reopening comes as politicians tire of the spike in unemployment and the prospect of an economic depression. Asian stocks followed Wall Street down Tuesday after US oil futures plunged below zero due to a global glut as factories, automobiles and planes slowed.

The cost of delivering a barrel of US crude in May fell to $ 37.63 as traders ran out of places to store it. It was around $ 60 at the start of the year.

Companies resuming operations in the United States are likely to generate goodwill with President Donald Trump at a time when his administration is distributing billions of dollars to businesses. Trump has been agitated to restart the economy, distinguishing between democratic-led states and inciting protesters to complain that the closures are destroying their livelihoods and trampling on their rights.

In several states – most of them headed by Republicans – governors said they saw signs that the coronavirus curve was flattening, allowing the start of the reopening of businesses and public spaces.

Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp has announced plans to restart his state’s economy before the end of the week. Kemp said gymnasiums, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors could reopen on Friday, as long as owners follow strict social and hygiene requirements.

Texas started a week of slow reopening on Monday, starting with state parks, while officials said later that week stores would be allowed to offer curbside service. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has announced that businesses in most of the state will begin reopening as early as next week, although the order does not cover counties in larger cities, including Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Both states are run by Republicans.

West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice said on Monday that he would allow hospitals to begin elective procedures if the facilities met an unspecified set of criteria, while Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis, said on Monday that he would let his statewide home stay order expire next week as long as strict social distancing and other personal protection measures continue.

But governors of many other states said they did not have the test supplies they needed and warned that they could be hit by a second wave of infections, since people without symptoms may still spread the disease.

“Who in this great state really believes that he cares more about jet skiing than saving the lives of the elderly or vulnerable? Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer noted, referring to restrictions in place in her state. “This action does not concern our individual right to assemble. It concerns our parents’ right to live. “

Boeing said it will put about 27,000 people back to work this week by building passenger planes at its factories in the Seattle area, along with virus precautions, including face masks and shifted shifts. The Boeing shutdown came into effect on March 25 after workers tested positive for the virus and a company inspector died. Washington was the first state to see a spike in COVID-19 cases and issued strict shutdown orders that helped crush the virus.

Doosan Bobcat, an agricultural equipment maker and the largest manufacturer in North Dakota, said about 2,200 workers from three state factories had returned. Company spokesperson Stacey Breuer said the reopening comes after two weeks of implementing security measures.

“There is certainly still some concern and do we feel 100% safe?” Obviously not, “said William Wilkinson, a Bobcat welder and president of a local union at United Steelworkers. He said the workers wore masks and kept their distance from each other.

Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 2.5 million people and caused more than 170,000 deaths, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. The United States was the hardest hit country with more than 787,000 infections and more than 42,000 deaths.

The real numbers are said to be much higher, in part due to limited testing and difficulty counting the dead.

There have been encouraging signs in places like New York State, where hospitalizations have stabilized. Monday’s death toll at 478 was the lowest in three weeks, against a peak of nearly 800.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, warned ABC: “If we don’t get the virus under control, real economic recovery will not happen. “

Long reported from Washington. AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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