European virus hotspots see record lows in numbers of new cases

Some countries are preparing to ease coronavirus restrictions after record lows in the numbers of new cases.

France, Italy and Spain have registered the lowest daily death tolls for weeks: France reported 135 deaths; Spain’s 164 was the lowest figure since mid-March; and Italy’s 174 was the lowest in two months.

In Italy, which had some of the world’s most severe restrictions, one of the first steps towards normal life comes today, with the reopening of parks and public gardens.

A teacher talks to few pupils who are socially distancing preparing in their school in Dortmund
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More businesses have been allowed to resume trading and people are allowed more freedom to move around their towns and cities.

Italy has been in lockdown since 10 March and, with 28,884 deaths, it is still the worst-hit in Europe, although the UK is rapidly approaching that point.

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More than 210,000 people have tested positive for the virus.

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In Spain, social distancing rules remain in place but many people have been able to venture outside for the first time since lockdown began there on 14 March.

Masks will become compulsory on public transport from today.

Spain has lost 25,264 people to the virus.

India's armed forces on Sunday (May 3) took to the skies to thank the country's healthcare workers and emergency services battling the coronavirus pandemic.
India’s armed forces thank the country’s healthcare workers

France, with 24,864 deaths, will gradually lift lockdown measures from 11 May and is preparing to bring in compulsory quarantine for travellers who arrive from outside Britain or Europe’s Schengen open-border area.

The two-week requirement will apply to all arrivals, whether they are French or foreign, as part of a bill which extends the country’s state of emergency until 24 July.

French government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said on Sunday that a list of “countries at risk” would soon be issued, without giving details.

The Christ the Redeemer statue is seen illuminated wearing a face mask calling society to wear them to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 03, 2020
Image: The Christ the Redeemer statue is illuminated ‘wearing a face mask’ in Brazil

In New Zealand, there were zero new cases recorded in a 24-hour period for the first time in weeks, with the number of confirmed cases remaining at 1,137. Twenty people have died.

The country began its lockdown on 16 March with the ambitious goal of eliminating the virus and, while several social restrictions remain in place with most people still working and studying from home, some economic activity has resumed.

Consideration is being given to a trans-Tasman “bubble” which would allow movement of people between New Zealand and Australia, which has had about 6,800 infections and 95 deaths.

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Around the world:

  • Eurostar says all its passengers must wear face masks from today at both its trains and its stations. Passengers without a mask could be refused travel
  • Belgium is starting the first phase of ending the lockdown there
  • In Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, a third of 500 people randomly tested were shown to have the virus
  • India’s lockdown has been extended to 17 May but some relaxations apply from today. Most travel remains banned and schools, hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, cinemas and places of worship are closed
  • Russia has almost 135,000 confirmed cases, with a death toll of 1,280, as concern grows that hospitals in Moscow could be overwhelmed
  • Japan, with around 15,000 infections and more than 500 deaths, is expected to extend its state of emergency this week, although some restrictions on economic activity could be relaxed and parks reopened
  • The number of confirmed cases worldwide has passed 3.5 million, with almost 250,000 deaths
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