A homeless man pushes a shopping cart carrying his belongings in an empty street in Madrid. AFP
Europe on Sunday prepared for a further cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions following signs the pandemic may be slowing, after Spaniards flocked to the streets to jog, cycle and rollerskate for the first time after 48 days of confinement.
More than 242,000 people have been killed and 3.4 million infected worldwide by the virus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown and pushed the global economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.
With signs that the spread of the contagion has been brought under control, parts of Europe and the United States have begun to lift restrictions to try to inject life into economies crippled by weeks of closures and ease the pressure from populations wearying of captivity.
After a two-month lockdown in Italy -- with the second-highest number of virus deaths in the world -- people on Monday will be allowed to stroll in parks and visit relatives. Restaurants can open for takeaway and wholesale stores can resume business.
And in Hungary, some stores and museums, outdoor spaces of restaurants and hotels, beaches and baths can reopen from Monday -- but restrictions will remain in the capital Budapest, which has recorded about 70 percent of the country's cases.
Germany will also continue its easing at the start of the week, with schools in some areas expected to reopen, while Slovenia and Poland will allow some businesses and public spaces to operate again.
France has said it will partially lift its lockdown on May 11.
But with health experts warning the disease could hit hard once again, they are sticking to social distancing measures, the use of masks and more testing to try to track infections.
"We must maintain social distancing, maximum hygiene levels, and masks. We've done our bit to the best of our ability. From Monday, it's up to you," Italian emergency response official Domenico Arcuri said.
Despite the lingering concerns, there was joy and relief in Spain on Saturday, where people were allowed to exercise and walk freely after the government eased seven weeks of strict lockdown in a country with one of the highest number of deaths at more than 25,000.
"After so many weeks in confinement I badly wanted to go out, run, see the world," said financial advisor Marcos Abeytua in Madrid. "Yesterday I was like a child on Christmas Eve."Agence France-Presse
A total of 75,538 deaths have been recorded, including 53,928 in Europe, the continent worst hit by the virus. The official tallies probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of cases. Many countries are testing only the most serious cases.
Worldwide, more than 788,000 people have been infected and 166,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. Italy's death toll rose to nearly 11,600 — the highest in the world by far — but its rates of new infections were slowing.
More than 1,780,750 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 359,200 are now considered recovered.
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