The United States, Britain and Russia are preparing to return their people to work despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday the country is conducting about 300,000 coronavirus tests a day and will soon pass a total of 10 million tests conducted, which he said was more than any other country.
A senior administration official told reporters that a new antigen test, approved by a company called Quidel, will speed up the testing process further because this test looks only for the presence of the viral protein in the nose, unlike the more complicated and time-consuming nucleic acid tests.
“The machines for these tests — there are already 20,000 of them out in the United States because they’re a commonly used platform for things like flu testing and strep throat,” the official said.
The administration expects about 9 million new tests to be available every month.
The White House shifted focus from reopening the country to testing after two West Wing aides tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump wants to reopen the country as soon as possible to halt the growing unemployment, which has already reached historic proportions, with more than 30 million people losing their jobs since mid-March. Some state governors have made testing one of the conditions for returning people to work.
The United States tops the world with about 1,350,000 confirmed COVID cases and more than 80,000 coronavirus-related deaths. But many states are reopening or planning to do so, including the worst-hit New York and New Jersey.
Britain, which ranks third in the world in the number of infections — close to 225,000 — and second in the number of deaths — more than 32,000 — also is taking steps to return people to work, even though infected people are still dying in thousands by day. Labor unions and leaders of the independent regions of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are balking at the three-step plan that Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled Sunday. Johnson spent Monday defending what he called his “baby-steps” approach to reopening the country, and he answered questions from the media and the public.
Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the non-working period ends May 12 even though the country reported 11,656 new cases over the past 24 hours, a record number so far. In a televised address Monday, Putin told the nation that "it is in the interest of all of us for the economy to return to normal quickly."
Russia reported a total of more than 221,000 COVID cases on Monday and 2,009 coronavirus deaths. Putin said the ultimate decision on reopening remains with local governors, who he said can reinstate shutdowns if necessary. He said the doctors will have a final say. Putin said all sectors should return to work starting with construction, agriculture and energy.
Worldwide, many countries have relaxed COVID restrictions with mixed results. New Zealand is set to further ease measures Thursday, after no new cases emerged during the first phase of reopening. Its people are now allowed to go to restaurants, movie theaters and malls. But South Korea, Germany and China have seen a resurgence of cases after easing lockdowns.
The World Health Organization is advising nations to ensure that the epidemic is under control before reopening. WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that countries should also have surveillance systems in place to be able to detect and manage any resurgence of cases and ensure that their health systems can cope with a possible resurgence after reopening.
Worldwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is more than 4.2 million. The global death tally is more than 285,000, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.