From outdoor kids’ movies for cooped up apartment dwellers in Rio to online shopping and worship around the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has communities adapting to the realities of living with a pandemic while battling to save their economies.
Japan was preparing to end its coronavirus state of emergency for most regions on Thursday, while New Zealand further relaxed its restrictions after deciding its outbreak was under control.
A strong typhoon was roaring toward the eastern Philippines as authorities struggled to move tens of thousands of people safely during a virus lockdown. Governors said social distancing would be nearly impossible for those in emergency shelters.
It could be weeks before it’s clear whether reopenings will cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. The trajectory of outbreaks vary wildly, with steep increases in cases in some places, decreases in others and infection rates that can shift dramatically from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
So, in many parts of the world, communities and individuals are finding inventive ways to cope with what many view as a “new normal”.
Apartment dwellers in Rio de Janeiro were getting some much-needed entertainment from children’s movies projected on screens set up outside their buildings.
Cesar Miranda Ribeiro, president of city-owned RioFilme company, said the effort called “Cinema in the Windows” was aimed at “trying to take care of the mental health of the people”.
Chinese looking for some stay-at-home retail therapy have tuned into live-stream shopping.
Others seeking spiritual support and human connections are worshipping remotely via online religious services from the Vatican to village churches, to mosques and temples.
For most leaders, though, the focus was a far more worldly one: how to get back to business and revive economies reeling from record numbers of job losses and chilling uncertainty.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo was due to hold a news conference to explain plans to lift the country’s state of emergency in most places ahead of schedule as the number of new cases falls, with the exception of Tokyo and several other high-risk areas.
So far, Japan, with a population of 126 million, has reported 16,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and about 680 deaths.
The US has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world by far: 1.39 million infections and more than 84,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 4.3 million people and killed about 297,000. The actual numbers are likely far higher.
A top US immunologist who says he lost his government job because he warned the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic said he was ready to tell Congress that America faced its “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders acted decisively to prevent a COVID-19 rebound.
Dr Rick Bright’s testimony due on Thursday follows a warning by Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, that rushing to lift store-closing and stay-at-home restrictions could “turn back the clock”.
But the pressure is on to staunch job losses after the US unemployment rate soared to 14.7 per cent in April, the highest since the Great Depression.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell urged Washington to act further, urging more government spending and tax breaks to prevent long-lasting harm.
He spoke a day after Democratic leaders proposed a $US3 trillion ($A4.7 trillion) aid package. That would follow nearly $US3 trillion in earlier assistance.
Some states started easing their lockdowns about two weeks ago, allowing reopenings by establishments ranging from shopping centres in Texas to beach hotels in South Carolina to gyms, bars and restaurants in sparsely populated Wyoming.
It may be five to six weeks before the effects of relaxing shutdowns were known, said Crystal Watson of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
South Korea was testing hundreds of people as it battles a spike in infections linked to nightspots in Seoul that threaten the country’s hard-won progress in the fight against the pandemic. It confirmed 29 more coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
Italy partially lifted restrictions last week only to see a big jump in confirmed coronavirus cases in its hardest-hit region. Lebanese authorities reinstated a nationwide lockdown for four days after a surge in reported infections and complaints that social distancing rules were being ignored.
In Geneva, meanwhile, a top World Health Organisation official warned COVID-19 may be here to stay since without a vaccine it could take years for people to build up sufficient levels of immunity.
“This virus may never go away,” Dr Michael Ryan said.