As the global death toll from COVID-19 passed the 400,000 mark, and protests sparked by the death of George Floyd continue around the world, U.S. cities and European nations are this week relaxing measures that have seen millions confined to their homes.
Shops will partially reopen and thousands are expected to go back to work in New York City on Monday, for many weeks the hardest-hit city in the country.But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warns "it doesn't mean we're going to back to the way we were."
Spain, Belgium, Ireland and Germany are among the countries to further lighten lockdown restrictions, while the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has declared the country free of COVID-19.
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New Zealand declares itself free of coronavirus, reopens economy
New Zealand is free of coronavirus, the country's health ministry said Monday as it confirmed that the last remaining patient had been "symptom free for 48 hours."
In a televised statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern announced that the economy would be fully reopened and the alert level lowered to one. All lockdown restrictions — apart from the border, which remains closed — were lifted as a result.
New Zealand has managed to successfully contain the coronavirus while many other western nations have been much more severely impacted. The country last reported a new case 17 days ago, and has only 1,154 confirmed cases to date.
Global coronavirus death toll tops 400,000 as protesters continue to defy lockdowns
The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 400,000 lives, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. More than a quarter of these were in the U.S., according to the NBC News' tally.
The grisly toll was reached after tens of thousands of people around the world defied COVID-19 lockdown restrictions to protest against the death of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died under the knee of a former Minnesota police officer last month. More protests are planned for Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned about the dangers of such protests on Friday. He told told Washington D.C. radio station WTOP that he was “very concerned” about large crowds congregating in geographic areas where there is active infection transmission.
More than 5,000 cases confirmed in Florida in 4 days
Florida reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases on Saturday, the fourth straight day of cases hitting that threshold as the state continues with its reopening plan.
The Florida Department of Health reported 1,270 new cases Saturday and another 28 deaths, bringing the state's total to 62,758 cases. More than 5,000 cases have been confirmed in the state between Wednesday and Saturday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chose to go ahead with the second phase of the state's reopening plan Friday despite the new numbers. As of Friday places such as movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades can begin operating at a 50 percent capacity.
Soccer World Cup to go on as planned despite the pandemic
The 2022 soccer World Cup will go on as planned despite the coronavirus pandemic, host country Qatar said Saturday.
The event could be a "cure for the world," Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the U.K.'s Sky News. Sky News and NBC News are both owned by Comcast.
“Qatar is working very closely and strongly with different healthcare organizations to make sure to deliver a healthy and safe World Cup,” he said.
He added the designs of the stadiums will comply with any changes to health and safety guidance as a result of COVID-19. The Gulf nation has so far reported more than 67,000 virus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
India reports almost 10,000 new cases on the day before lockdown ends
India reported 9,971 new virus cases Sunday in another biggest single-day spike, according to the Ministry of Health, a day before it prepares to reopen shopping malls, hotels and religious places after a 10-week lockdown.
India has now surpassed Spain as the fifth hardest-hit by the pandemic globally with 246,628 confirmed cases and 6,929 fatalities.
India has already partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen. E-commerce companies have started to deliver goods, including those considered nonessential, to places outside containment zones.
South Korea reports over 50 cases for second day in a row
South Korea recorded more than 50 cases for the second day in a row on Sunday as authorities continue to work to suppress a spike in fresh infections in the country's capital Seoul metropolitan area.
The additional 57 cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday took the country’s total to 11,776 cases, while the death toll has remained 273 deaths for the fifth consecutive day. The agency said 10,552 people have recovered.
South Korea’s high caseload peaked in early March, and aggressive tracing and testing prompted authorities to ease strict social distancing rules. The country has since seen an increase in new infections — mostly in the densely-populated Seoul region — linked to nightclub-goers and warehouse workers.
Brazil takes down COVID-19 data, hiding soaring death toll
Brazil removed months of data on its COVID-19 epidemic from public view on Saturday, as President Jair Bolsonaro defended delays and changes to official record-keeping of the world's second-largest outbreak.
Brazil's Health Ministry removed the data from a website that had documented the epidemic over time and by state and municipality. The ministry also stopped giving a total count of confirmed cases, which have shot past 672,000 — more than anywhere outside the U.S. — or a total death toll, which passed Italy this week, nearing 36,000 by Saturday.
"The cumulative data... does not reflect the moment the country is in," Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a note from the ministry. "Other actions are underway to improve the reporting of cases and confirmation of diagnoses."
Bolsonaro has played down the dangers of the pandemic, replaced medical experts in the Health Ministry with military officials and argued against state lockdowns to fight the virus.
Neither Bolsonaro nor the ministry gave a reason for erasing most of the data on the government website, which had been a key public resource for tracking the pandemic. The page was taken down on Friday and reloaded Saturday with a new layout and just a fraction of the data, reflecting only deaths, cases and recoveries within the last 24 hours.