In separate, stark warnings, two major European leaders have bluntly told their citizens that the world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by the development of a vaccine.
The comments by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came as governments worldwide struggled with restarting economies blindsided by the pandemic.
Pushed hard by Italy’s regional leaders and weeks in advance of an earlier timetable, Conte is allowing restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open on Monday, the same day that church services can resume and shops reopen.
“We are facing a calculated risk, in the awareness… that the epidemiological curve could go back up,” Conte said. “We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch.”
Conte added that Italy could “not afford” to wait until a vaccine was developed.
Health experts say the world could be months, if not years, away from having a vaccine available to everyone despite the scientific gold rush now on to create one.
Britain’s Johnson, who was hospitalised last month with a serious bout of COVID-19, speculated on Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.
“I said we would throw everything we could at finding a vaccine,” Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition.”
Coronavirus has infected more than 4.6 million people and killed more than 312,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say under counts the true toll of the pandemic.
The US has reported more than 88,000 dead and Europe has registered at least 160,000 deaths.
In the US, many states have lifted stay-at home-orders and other restrictions, allowing some types of businesses to reopen.
Houses of worship are beginning to look ahead to resumption of in-person services, with some opening their doors this month.
Dr Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Fox News Sunday that the virus can spread “explosively” if lockdown restrictions are lifted too quickly.
“That’s why we have to be so careful,” Frieden said. “We’re all tired of waiting at home. We want to get out. I want to get back to the gym. We want to get back to our lives.”
Professional football matches in Germany’s Bundesliga resumed over the weekend, a move keenly watched by followers of the sport in the rest of the world.
Players were warned not to spit, shake hands or hug each other to celebrate goals. Team staff and substitutes wore masks on the bench, and balls and seats were disinfected.
Churches throughout Greece opened their doors to the faithful after two months on Sunday, while limiting the number of congregants and dispensing disinfectants.
Turkey allowed people over 65 to leave their homes only for a second time – up to six hours – but kept them under a general lockdown.
Small shops were opening in most of Spain, which on Sunday reported only 87 new deaths, the lowest daily death count since March 16. Restrictions, however, remained tighter in Madrid and Barcelona, the hardest-hit areas.
In Asia, China’s commercial hub of Shanghai announced a June 2 restart of classes for younger students amid falling virus cases.
No new deaths have been reported in a month in the world’s second-largest economy, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year.
China reported just five new cases on Sunday, while South Korea recorded 13, raising hopes that a new outbreak linked to nightclubs in Seoul may be waning even though 168 patients have been infected so far.