Consensus on lifting lockdowns hard to reach amid uncertain pandemic outlook

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Lockdown

As the deadlines of a-month-or-longer lockdown measures approach, authorities in pandemic-hit countries are mulling alleviation of tight preventive measures to restore economy.

However, a ballooning caseload of COVID-19 makes politicians and the public divided over the timing to lift lockdowns.

The United States, in particular, saw the disputes heating up as a handful of states announced plans to reopen economy while Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, the fastest practicer to respond to U.S. President Donald Trump’s calling of restarting economy, faced criticism from neighboring states and Trump himself.

HEATED DEBATE IN U.S.

Trump and some Republican governors are pushing for a swifter approach to opening the economy whereas a number of Democratic governors are slow to reopen their states.

Those go for extended closing down said they fretted over the health consequences of the highly contagious and deadly virus, while those voice against the lockdown warned of a harsh recession, citing worrisome unemployment rate and consequent health crisis.

Kemp announced on Monday he would reopen his state’s economy by week’s end with plans to allow gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors to reopen as long as they adhere to social distancing practices. By Monday, restaurants and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen.

Also on Monday, governors of South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, and Louisiana announced moves to restart economy and public life in their states.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Thursday that she would be lifting the order delaying non-urgent procedures for healthcare providers, as long as they have met new requirements for COVID-19 safety and preparedness.

Though Trump, in a series of his tweets on April 17, urged “liberating” of several U.S. states and encouraged state leaders to swiftly reopen in line with their respective situations, he criticized Kemp.

“I disagree strongly,” he said in a Wednesday news conference. “I think it’s too soon.”

The COVID-19 cases in the United States continued to grow with the count standing at 866,646 and the death toll at nearly 50,000 as of Thursday night, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

So did the unemployment claims in the country. In the week ending April 18, the number of initial jobless claims totaled 4.4 million, raising the five-week total to over 26 million, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday.

UNDECIDED NEXT MOVE

Several Latin American countries will see their lockdown deadlines expire at the end of the month, but whether to lift tight measures depends on the pandemic situation in respective countries.

Bolivia, where a lockdown is set to expire on April 30, is studying the situation to decide whether to relax or ramp up social distancing rules, said Yerko Nunez, minister of the presidency of the interim-government, at a press conference.

In addition to health concerns, there were economic factors to take into account, noted Nunez, adding the interim cabinet will meet next week to discuss the issue.

Bolivia first imposed partial restrictions on mobility on March 10, then expanded and extended them on March 26 when a health emergency was declared.

Mexico’s General Health Council has already unanimously approved an extension of the lockdown through May 30 from the initial April 30 deadline, as the authorities foresaw a rapid increase of infection and hospitalization.

The deadline of Peru’s lockdown measures was extended to May 10 from April 26 after authorities studied the situation. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country topped 20,000 on Thursday.

Though Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, recorded the biggest caseload of COVID-19 in the region with total infections rising to 49,492 and the death toll to 3,313 as of Thursday night, it was eager to relax restrictions.

The country’s worst-hit state of southeast Sao Paulo, which reported a total of 16,740 infections, announced it will, starting from May 11, gradually ease lockdown measures that began on March 24.

In Muslim countries where Ramadan comes amid the pandemic, confinement measures are partly lifted up.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday ordered the government to gradually lift the lockdown measures due to an improved COVID-19 situation.

Shortly after the president’s speech, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad announced lifting the total lockdown at the Blida province, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the North African country, as of Friday, while replacing it with a partial lockdown from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. the next day.

The Algerian government has also decided to relax the partial lockdown measures imposed on 10 other provinces, including the capital Algiers.

As of April 23, Algeria registered a total of 3,007 confirmed cases and a total of 407 death cases. Its number of death cases has gradually declined in the past week. Enditem

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