The global death toll from the coronavirus topped 100,000 as Christians across the world marked Good Friday in front of computer screens instead of churches and some countries tiptoed toward reopening their battered economies.
Public health officials warned people against violating the social distancing rules over Easter. In Italy, officials used helicopters, drones and stepped-up police checks to make sure people don’t slip out over the holiday.
Even such hallowed traditions as the Pope’s Easter message are being revamped -- Pope Francis will live-stream from the seclusion of his private library.
Some churches held services online, while others arranged prayers at drive-in theatres. Fire-scarred Notre Dame Cathedral came back to life briefly in locked-down Paris. Services were broadcast from the nearly empty, closed-to-the-public cathedral.
France on Friday reported 987 more deaths in hospitals and nursing homes in 24 hours, but the number of patients in intensive care fell for the second day in a row.
The UK Health secretary, Mr. Matt Hancock, said on Friday that Britain had recorded 980 deaths in 24 hours, the highest daily toll yet, bringing total fatalities to nearly 8,000. Confirmed cases in the UK climbed to more than 65,000.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, who was moved out of intensive care after being hit with the virus, 'has been able to do short walks, between periods of rest, as part of the care he is receiving to aid his recovery.' Mr. Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, expressed relief that his son is out of the ICU and wanted him to rest.
In the US, the death toll surged to more than 17,900 as of Friday morning, with more than 478,000 cases. New York state, the worst-hit, had nearly half of fatalities at 7,800 — with 779 in 24 hours on Thursday, a rate of 33 an hour.
Dr.Anthony Fauci, the epidemiologist in the US President, Mr. Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, cited the improvement in New York to acknowledge a turnaround has started. But, he said on Friday, he would like to see clearer and stronger signs before getting 'out there prematurely and winding back in the same situation.' The New York Governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo, counselled caution, citing cities and countries hit by a second wave because they rushed to it.
The US Senate, meantime, failed to pass on Thursday a request of 250 billion dollars more in relief for small businesses sought by the Trump administration in addition to the overall package of 2.2 trillion ollarscleared last month. Democrats wanted a matching amount to be set aside for healthcare workers. US lawmakers appealed to China to shut down all its operating ‘wet markets’, where fresh produce including meat and vegetables are sold.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Justin Trudeau, said Canadians should get accustomed to the 'new normal' of living with restrictions even after the first wave of the pandemic has peaked. He said social distancing or remaining at home may be necessary over a period longer than the expected peak of the infections.
In some of the worst-hit countries, Italy and Spain, new infections, hospitalisations and deaths have been levelling off. But the daily tolls remain shocking.Spain, after a two-week freeze on all non-essential economic activity, decided to allow factories and construction sites to resume work on Monday, while schools, most shops and offices will remain closed.
Spanish authorities said they trust that the move won’t cause a significant surge in infections.
In Italy, the industrial lobbies in regions representing 45% of the country’s economic output urged the government to ease its two-week lockdown on all non-essential manufacturing, saying the country 'risks definitively shutting down its own motor, and every day that passes the risk grows not to be able to restart it.'’
A hasty lifting of restrictions imposed to control the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to a fatal resurgence of the new coronavirus, the World Health Organization warned on Friday.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister announced a two-week extension to the country’s lockdown but said selected economic sectors can reopen in phases.
China’s Wuhan city, where the pandemic began, is still testing residents regularly despite relaxing its tough two-month lockdown. China has also ordered all hotels in the capital Beijing to ensure all guests provide negative coronavirus report. Beijing will require all arrivals to provide a negative nucleic acid report and green health code before checking in, starting Sunday.