France face masks
Dunkirk municipal employees wearing face masks stand in front of a house during a distribution of cloth face masks to residents, in anticipation of the end of the lockdown on May 10, in Dunkirk, northern France on April 28, 2020, on the 43rd day of a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: More measures to ease a COVID-19 lockdown were announced on Tuesday, with France taking the lead and Spain expected to announce similar moves later.

From next week, Italians will be able to exercise outdoors and visit relatives - but only if they wear masks and refrain from hugs and handshakes. In Germany, which allowed some shops to reopen last week, experts warned against a rush to lift lockdown measures after new data showed a slight uptick in infection rates.

France lockdown saved thousands

In France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the lockdown had saved tens of thousands of lives but that it was time to ease the restrictions to stave off economic collapse. The death toll in France passed 23,000 on Monday, the world's fourth highest behind the United States, Italy and Spain.

"We are going to have to learn to live with the virus," Philippe told parliament, adding the country would emerge from the lockdown on May 11, unless it was unsafe to do so.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe delivers a speech to present the government's plan to unwind the country's coronavirus lockdown at the National Assembly as a lockdown is imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris, France April 28, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

UK looks at deadly toll

In the UK, new data published showed that Britain is on track to record one of the worst coronavirus death tolls in Europe.

The Office for National Statistics said 21,284 people had died in England by April 17 with mentions of COVID-19 on their death certificate.

Brazil hot spot

There was also concern that Brazil was emerging as the next big hot spot for the coronavirus amid President Jair Bolsonaro’s insistence that it is just a “little flu”. The outbreak in Brazil pushed some hospitals to the breaking point, with signs that a growing number of victims are now dying at home. “We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” said Paulo Brandao, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo.

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US to seek damages from China

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said he may seek damages from China for the devastating coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 56,000 in the US. Beijing immediately hit back, accusing US politicians of "telling barefaced lies" about the virus that emerged in China late last year and has infected more than three million people and killed 211,000 globally.

Some US states have moved to lift restrictions despite warnings from health experts - but to the delight of some citizens.

New Zealand lifts lockdown

New Zealanders indulged in fast food and coffee shop treats for the first time in five weeks on Tuesday as the country lifted its strict lockdown. In Australia, hundreds of surfers and swimmers rushed back to the waves at Bondi Beach in Sydney, five weeks after police closed the area because of large crowds flouting social distancing rules.

Italian PM defends himself

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte defended himself on Tuesday from widespread criticism of his highly cautious plans for a slow-placed end to Europe's longest coronavirus lockdown.

The government has said strict curbs put in place seven weeks ago to curb the disease would be eased from May 4, when parks, factories and construction sites reopen. However shops must remain shuttered until May 18, while restaurants, bars and hairdressers will stay closed until June 1 and students won't be back at school before September.

"If I could turn the clock back, I'd do it all again," Conte told La Stampa daily. "I cannot let myself be swayed by public opinion, even if I understand those feelings very well myself."

US doctor commits suicide

A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital who treated many coronavirus patients committed suicide on Sunday, her father and the police said.

Dr Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was staying with family, her father said in an interview.

Breen’s father, Dr Philip C. Breen, said she had described devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients.

- with inputs from Reuters and Bloomberg