New Zealand and Thailand each reported no new coronavirus cases Wednesday as the governments prepared to further ease lockdown restrictions.
New Zealand has now had four such days during the past two weeks, showing continued success that followed a month of strict stay-at-home orders.
Thursday brings the latest step back to normalcy there with most stores and restaurants allowed to open again with social distancing rules in place.
“The sense of anticipation is both palpable and understandable,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.
Thailand reached the zero daily cases milestone for the first time since early March. The government is urging people to continue wearing masks if they go out in public and will meet Friday to decide on additional easing measures such as allowing shopping malls to reopen.
In another sign of progress, Austria announced Wednesday its border with Germany would fully reopen on June 15 after talks between leaders of the two countries.
Mexico’s General Health Council has classified the construction, mining and automobile manufacturing industries as “essential activities,” meaning they will be allowed to operate while other businesses remain under lockdown restrictions.
The move came ahead of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s announcement Wednesday of his plan for gradually resuming economic activity in Mexico, even as a severe lack of testing hinders virus-related decision-making.
The decision came after pressure from U.S. officials who are concerned about the industrial supply chain in North America.
While many countries, especially in Europe, are starting to allow businesses to reopen, health officials remain cautious about the risk for moving too quickly and allowing a resurgence of infections.
The top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told a Senate committee he is concerned that if states skip stages such as waiting for a two-week decline in confirmed cases before opening up, “we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”
“If you think that we have it completely under control, we don't,” Fauci told lawmakers. “If you look at the dynamics of the outbreak, we are seeing a diminution of hospitalizations and infections in some places, such as in New York City, which has plateaued and starting to come down, New Orleans. But in other parts of the country, we are seeing spikes."
In the western U.S. state of California, Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S. with 10 million residents, is expected to announce a three-month extension of its stay-at-home orders.
“While the ‘Safer at Home’ orders will remain in place over the next few months, restrictions will be gradually relaxed,” under a planned reopening of the local economy as the pandemic diminishes, county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday.
The largest four-year public university system in the U.S., California State University, announced the cancellation of classes in the fall at its 23 campuses, the first large U.S. university to do so. Almost all instruction will be moved online, Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement.
The United States has the most confirmed cases in the world with 1.38 million, followed by Russia, which has seen a spike in cases, including reporting more than 10,000 new cases again Wednesday.
A spike in reported cases in Lebanon prompted the government to reinstate a four-day nationwide lockdown Wednesday after it began gradually lifting measures earlier this month that were first imposed in mid-March.
Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it also would go into complete lockdown for the end of Ramadan after a sharp rise in new cases during the Muslim holy month. The Interior Ministry said the lockdown would be in effect from May 23 through May 27.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced Tuesday that he has contracted the virus. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin had to relinquish his duties two weeks ago after being diagnosed with COVID-19. President Vladimir Putin is conducting all his communication via video links from his official retreat outside Moscow.
Worldwide, there are about 4.3 million confirmed cases and more than 294,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics. In addition to leading the world in infections, the U.S. also continues to rank number one in deaths globally, with nearly 83,000.