An employee of Xochimilco's crematorium waits for a corpse, suspected to have died of the new coronavirus, in Mexico City,…
An employee of Xochimilco's crematorium waits for a corpse, suspected to have died of the new coronavirus, in Mexico City, May 4, 2020. He is standing next to pile of discarded coffins that contained people who died of COVID-19 disease.

European Union leaders have raised more than $8 billion to help finance the development of drugs and vaccine to treat COVID-19 worldwide. About 40 countries, philanthropic organizations and individuals from around the world pledged donations to fund research into diagnosing, preventing and treating the disease.  

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said U.S. singer and actress Madonna pledged more than $1 million toward the global effort. 

The European Commission pledged $1 billion. Norway matched the European Commission's contribution, and France, Saudi Arabia and Germany committed more than $500 million each. Japan pledged more than $800 million. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) praised the effort as a sign of international solidarity in the fight against the virus.  

"This virus will be with us for a long time, and we must come together to develop and share the tools to defeat it," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual briefing in Geneva. 

Easing restrictions

More than half of the European Union countries have eased some of the coronavirus restrictions as the number of new infections declines. But officials are wary of a possible resurgence of new cases when people get out of their homes. Another outbreak is expected in the fall. 

Worldwide, there are between 70,000 and 90,000 new cases every day. Some countries, including the United States and Russia, are in the middle of the crisis. 

A food server wearing a protective face mask waits on customers at the Parkshore Grill restaurant in St. Petersburg, Fla., May 4, 2020.

Different U.S. models are projecting different death tolls. A model from the University of Washington, previously used by the White House, predicts a death toll of about 135,000 by August. Sunday night during a virtual town hall, President Donald Trump predicted as many as 100,000 deaths. 

The United States has about 1,200,000 COVID-19 cases and close to 69,000 deaths from coronavirus-related causes. More than 600 people died in the past 24 hours.  

Even so, some states are relaxing shutdowns to allow people to go back to work. Ohio has lifted restrictions on manufacturing, Louisiana is sending lawmakers back to work, and Florida is reopening more of its beaches. Mississippi and Georgia began reopening last month. In the capital, Washington, U.S. Senate is convening for the first time since March, but the stay-at-home order for the residents remains in place until May 15. 

Spike in Russia

The number of confirmed cases in Russia spiked again Monday. Officials reported a second consecutive day with more than 10,000 new cases, which put the country at a total of more than 145,000 cases and more than 1,350 deaths. 

A medical worker wearing protective equipment sprays disinfectant at his ambulance after delivering a patient suspected of being infected with the coronavirus to the Pokrovskaya hospital in St.Petersburg, Russia, May 4, 2020.

Russia's medical experts say the nation is still far from reaching the plateau. Chief sanitary doctor Anna Popova told state news agency Tass  that "today, it is impossible to completely stop the circulation of the virus, no matter how closed the country is."

Using caution

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his government is extending Japan's state of emergency, which was set to expire Wednesday, through the end of the month as the virus continues to spread. 

From New Zealand comes good news. No new cases were reported Monday for the first time since March following a week of relaxing restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus. The tough measures helped the island nation keep the number of confirmed cases to about 1,500 with 20 deaths. Officials are taking a cautious approach to reversing shutdown measures and say they will be watching for signs of new infections after another week, as the average incubation time for the novel coronavirus is two weeks. 

Businesses also started reopening in parts of Malaysia as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin eased lockdown restrictions originally set to expire May 12.  

Yassin's government is one of many across the globe considering how to balance measures meant to stop the coronavirus from spreading against the desire to restart economic activity.  

A barber wears a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as he cuts a customer's hair at his salon, in Beirut, Lebanon, May 4, 2020.

Lebanon allowed restaurants to reopen but only at 30% of capacity, and South Africa allowed trains, buses and taxis to resume but with limited capacity. 

Health officials around the world have cautioned against reopening too quickly and risking a new wave of infections that would reverse progress made in recent weeks in areas under lockdown. 

More than 3.5 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide, and nearly 250,000 have died. 
 

Special Section