WASHINGTON - Tuesday saw an increase in deaths and new COVID-19 cases in Britain, France, some eastern European countries, Sweden, Japan and the United States, while China, South Korea and a handful of other countries reported a decline in deaths and new infections.
China on Tuesday ended the 76-day lockdown in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began in late December. Residents who can produce a smartphone application that shows they do not have COVID-19 and have not been in recent contact with anyone infected with the disease, can move about freely, and traffic has returned to roadways and railways.
In South Korea, steady progress continued with just 47 new infections reported Tuesday, but officials remain concerned about a return of the virus and are urging people to stay at home.
Austria, Denmark and Norway announced easing their own lockdowns, including the re-opening of schools, after the spread of the virus showed a decline. Even Italy and Spain, the worst hit European countries reported a slow but steady decline in deaths and new infections.
But after a spike in new deaths in the past two days, France on Tuesday became the fourth country to surpass 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus, after Italy, Spain and the United States. Authorities in Paris banned residents from doing outdoor exercise between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. to keep them off the streets. The ban starts Wednesday and applies to the French capital only. France has been in lockdown since March 17, and the measures have been extended until April 15, with another extension expected soon.
The United States has recorded more than 12,000 deaths, making it the country with the third-highest official death toll, after Italy and Spain. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases was nearly 400,000 Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Almost a half of U.S. deaths caused by COVID-19 have occurred in the state of New York, most of them in densely populated New York City.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state of New York recorded its highest single-day death toll Tuesday. The 731 deaths reported since Monday brought the total to 5,589 deaths and 138,836 infections, according to University of Minnesota figures.
Britain also reported the largest daily death toll caused by the virus — 758 people over a 24-hour period. The country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care where he is being treated for the virus. Officials say he has been given oxygen but there was no need to put him on a ventilator.
While some Scandinavian countries are ready to relax their COVID-19 restrictions, Sweden may have to go in the opposite direction. After month of relative freedom and no official lockdowns, the country has seen a sudden spike in the number of cases and hundreds of deaths.
A number of countries have yet to report any COVID-19 cases, among them Sierra Leone and Turkmenistan. Health experts warn that many authoritarian governments suppress reports of COVID-19 cases, thus making it harder to track the virus and stop its transmission. Turkmenistan held a mass bike rally on Tuesday to mark World Health Day.
Russian news media reported Tuesday that the country’s Vector Institute, a state research center in Novosibirsk, will start testing a COVID-19 vaccine on volunteers in June. The center’s director, Rinat Maksutov, told Rosija1 television that initial testing on animals, mostly mice, have made them immune to the coronavirus. The pre-clinical trials are to start in May.
In Seattle, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, released a forecast Tuesday predicting that more than 150,000 people will die during what they call the “first wave” of the pandemic. The IHME researchers say that “it is unequivocally evident” that social distancing can help control the epidemic and lead to declining death rates, if implemented timely and correctly.
IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray warned that easing these precautions too soon during “the first wave” of the pandemic could lead to new rounds of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. He defines the end of this wave as a ratio of 0.3 deaths per 1 million people.
Close to 1.5 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed worldwide and more than 82,000 have died so far.