Italy readies to begin second phase of battle
China Daily

A singer performs at a nursing home in Uvaly, Czech Republic, on Saturday. The country is still implementing strict social distancing restrictions amid the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo: Xinhua)

ROME-Italy is preparing for a second phase in its COVID-19 containment program, trying to find a balance between health and economic recovery, with the tally of confirmed cases in excess of 175,000.

The government says the nationwide lockdown that went into effect on March 10 will continue until May 3 and be followed by a second phase, involving "the gradual resumption of social, economic and productive activities".

"We are experiencing a large-scale tragedy (and) we have not defeated it yet-these are the hard facts," Domenico Arcuri, the government's special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, said on Saturday.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 175,925, an increase of 3,491 against Friday. A further 482 people had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, raising the country's death toll to 23,227.

Arcuri said that there is no competition between health and economic recovery, and Italy had been "ready to supply the national territory with all the needed equipment today" for the second phase.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that he would ask parliament for a 15-day extension until May 9 of the emergency measures imposed in one of the world's worst coronavirus' outbreaks, but said restrictions would be more flexible.

Spain imposed its COVID-19 measures on March 15, and they have been extended twice, until April 25. Sanchez said he had made the decision after listening to experts.

Spain has "left behind the most extreme moments", but the achievements are still insufficient and fragile, he said, adding that the country will move slowly, carefully and progressively toward the "new normality".

The death toll from the coronavirus in Spain rose at a slower pace on Saturday but has surpassed 20,000 deaths, and the number of cases rose to 195,944.

On Saturday France's lower house of parliament approved an emergency budget that takes into account the government's 110 billion-euro ($120 billion) plan to save the economy from virus-related collapse.

The budget includes bonuses for medical staff, funds to help struggling workers and families, and aid to businesses including strategic industries such as aviation and car manufacturing. The bill will go to the Senate on Tuesday.

France registered 642 more deaths from coronavirus infections on Saturday, and the total number of people in intensive care units fell for the 10th day in a row, to 5,833, the lowest level since March 31.

The French navy is investigating how the coronavirus infected more than 1,000 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, amid growing pressure on government leaders to explain how it could have happened.

Defense Minister Florence Parly said 1,081 of the 2,300 personnel aboard the Charles de Gaulle and its escort vessels had tested positive, nearly half the overall personnel.

Not ready to ease

In Britain the government said it is not thinking about easing the lockdown enacted almost four weeks ago to help control the coronavirus outbreak.

"The facts and the advice are clear at the moment that we should not be thinking of lifting of these restrictions yet," said the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Sunday.

The COVID-19 death toll reached 15,464, the Department of Health and Social Care said on Saturday, and 114,217 people had tested positive for the coronavirus by Saturday morning, marking a daily increase of 5,526.

Doctors and health workers criticized the government on Saturday for suggesting that personal protective equipment worn while treating patients infected with coronavirus could be reused, as supplies run low across the country.

In Germany the COVID-19 death toll rose by 184 to 4,294 on Sunday, and the number of confirmed cases rose to 139,897.

The country has a low case fatality rate of just under 3 percent, which is the number of deaths divided by the total number of confirmed cases.