As coronavirus-induced economic pain grew around the world, some U.S. states moved forward Friday with plans to reopen their economies, while European countries held muted commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on the continent.
Around the U.K., residents were encouraged to stand on their doorsteps and sing together while socially distanced to commemorate the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, South Korea, seen as a model for containing COVID-19, ordered nightclubs closed for a month and considered delaying a school restart after an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Friction arose where national governments disagreed with their local counterparts over business restrictions. In Italy, the government vowed legal action against a province seeking to ease restrictions faster than the country as a whole. In Brazil, the reverse happened as the country’s president asked the high court to rein in local governments imposing more restrictions than he would like.
A patchwork reopening in the United States included Texas allowing hair salons and barbershops to welcome back customers, while California took more modest steps to let retailers resume curbside operations with employees in masks.
The slow march toward reopening the economy comes as the U.S. reported a jobless rate of 14.7% in April, a level not seen since the Great Depression.
Among those whose finances were thrown into turmoil is Martin Brossman of Raleigh, North Carolina, who saw two-thirds of his income as a professional coach and speaker disappear since the pandemic.
“I had thousands of dollars in keynote speaking go away overnight,” Brossman said.
He said he wasn’t waiting for word on the unemployment benefit application he filed weeks ago. Instead, he is retooling his business for a world that will rely more on remote activities.
“I don’t think this is the last time that a problem like this occurs,” he said, so “whatever way we can do business … if this happens again, we have a new income stream.”
Here is a look at COVID-19 developments around the world.
SOMBER V-E DAY
Across Europe, celebrations marking the May 8, 1945, surrender of Germany were canceled or scaled back dramatically due. Many people were asked to commemorate it in private.
In the U.K., people were encouraged to sing the iconic wartime anthem, “We’ll Meet Again” from their homes — a song with added resonance now as lockdowns separate family and friends.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron led a small, somber ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, accompanied by two former presidents, all observing social distancing. Macron used hand sanitizer after signing the official register.
Friction arose in Italy, where northern Bolzano province sought to reopen stores this weekend in defiance of a national plan to wait until later this month. While the province cited a special statute granting it some autonomy, the Rome government planned a legal challenge. Italy has recorded more than 217,000 cases and more than 30,200 deaths.
Spain’s health minister announced the government will relax restrictions in areas home to half the country’s population next week because they met virus trend targets. Current restrictions will remain elsewhere, including Madrid.
U.S. MAKES SOME MOVES TO REOPEN
In Texas, where the Republican governor was praised by President Donald Trump for loosening restrictions, hair salons and barber shops were allowed to reopen Friday, following earlier restarts of restaurants and retailers.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz flew up from Houston to get his hair cut at a Dallas salon that became a rallying cry for conservative protests against lockdown orders after the owner refused to shut down and was jailed. She was later ordered released.
California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the first statewide stay-home order in the U.S., was taking more modest steps. The Democrat allowed clothing stores, sporting goods shops, florists and other retailers to start operating curbside pickup Friday, with many employees required to wear masks.
Pennsylvania announced that 13 counties, including much of the Pittsburgh area, can loosen restrictions next week, following a similar move for a swath of rural northern Pennsylvania.
South Carolina restaurants can reopen with limited indoor dining service Monday, the same day as Mississippi barbershops, salons and gyms, while Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a five-step reopening plan that includes some stricter standards than the state’s.
In contrast the city of Gallup, New Mexico, which serves tens of thousands of people living on and around the vast Navajo reservation, was under an extreme lockdown with police checkpoints keeping all but residents out.
The moves came as the U.S. has recorded more than 1.28 million cases and more than 76,000 deaths. Massachusetts, with at least 73,000 cases and 4,500 deaths, and Illinois, with 70,000 cases and 3,000 deaths, are states where stay-home orders remain in effect until later this month.
SOUTH KOREAN RESTRICTIONS
South Korea closed nightclubs for a month and indicated it may delay reopening schools after more than a dozen new infections were linked to a nightclub patron in Seoul.
Schools were supposed to begin reopening next week, but fears of a resurgence came after 25 new infections were reported Friday, marking South Korea’s first jump above 10 cases in five days. Before the uptick, improving trends allowed officials to relax distancing guidelines and schedule a phased school reopening.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there’s no plan to welcome back international travelers for the foreseeable future, despite plans to reopen the economy in stages by July.
Meanwhile, in a reflection of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, the United States objected to a proposed U.N. resolution on the pandemic after diplomats said it had agreed to compromise language with China that didn’t directly mention the World Health Organization.
The objection leaves the U.N.’s most powerful body impotent on reacting to the greatest crisis facing the world — and unable to back Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brazil’s fifth-largest city, Fortaleza, on Friday became the nation’s third metropolis and its most populous yet to start a virus-related lockdown, with the local measures prompting friction with the country’s leader.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who contends business shutdowns are more harmful than COVID-19 itself, asked the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday to force states to roll back restrictive measures even as deaths and overall case counts surge. The country has had over 140,000 cases and 9,600 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, the oil-rich nation of Kuwait is re-imposing a full lockdown beginning Sunday that will last through May 30. A previous lockdown had been loosened amid the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Drew reported from Durham, North Carolina. Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed.