Virus: coffee terraces reopen in France, pandemic flares in South America

PARIS | Parisian cafes reopen their terraces on Tuesday, symbolizing a slow return to normal in Europe, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging South America and threatening to collapse its hospital systems.

It is a return to “an almost normal life” in France, in the words of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, after two and a half months of confinement which will cost, as everywhere, dear to the economy of the country: a recession of at minus 11% is expected this year.

If in Paris and its region, the most affected area, only the terraces can accommodate customers, in the rest of the country bars and restaurants reopen their rooms, provided they comply with the distancing instructions.

Almost everywhere, restaurateurs had prepared for this long-awaited moment on Monday, as in Strasbourg (east), at the famous restaurant Maison Kammerzell.

“We spent several hours cleaning everything. On Monday, we have a second Covid disinfection, which is even more thorough, “Théo Stutzmann, butler, told AFP.

“I will go see my grandchildren”

The mask is mandatory for waiters and for customers who want to go to the bathroom. “We all asked the salt shaker once to a neighbor at the table. There, it will no longer be possible, ”he adds.

Colleges, high schools and small theaters reopen in most of the country on Tuesday and the ban on traveling more than 100 kilometers from his home is lifted.

“Maybe next weekend I will see my grandchildren, who are in Nantes” (west), said Linda Espallargas in Paris. “But I will take my car to be well insulated, because I am still afraid of the virus, I am over 65 years old so I am wary.”

“Relive as before the epidemic? No, not yet, ”says Arnaud Fontanet, epidemiologist and member of the Scientific Council consulted by the French authorities. “I will not talk about extinction because the virus will stay, but a significant decline (in its spread) is underway.”

Monday, major tourist spots in Europe started to welcome the public, even if health precautions and travel restrictions still prevent the arrival of large crowds.

In Rome, the Colosseum, Italy’s most visited tourist site, welcomed nearly 300 people who had made an online reservation, far from the usual 20,000 daily tourists.

“We take advantage of the absence of foreign tourists to come for a walk,” said Pierluigi, a Roman who came to visit the Colosseum with his wife for the first time.

In Spain, where for the first time in three months the virus has left no one dead in 24 hours, the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao has reopened.

In Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar, inaccessible to the public since March 23, revives. Life goes on and customers are awaited, ”said Yasar Sabuncu, one of some 30,000 traders in the vast covered market, after reopening his shop on shelves stocked with souvenirs and leather goods.

But while European countries are slowly taking the road to normalization, the pandemic is blazing in Latin America.

Four countries on the continent (Brazil, Peru, Chile, Mexico) are among the ten with the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

“Clearly, the situation in many Latin American countries is far from stabilized,” said Michael Ryan, WHO director of health emergencies.

“There has been a rapid increase in cases and these (health) systems are under pressure,” he said at a virtual press conference in Geneva, also expressing great concern for Haiti.

The pandemic has left more than 375,000 dead and contaminated at least 6.3 million people worldwide since its appearance in December in China, according to a report established by AFP from an official source Tuesday at 12:30 a.m. in Montreal .

In Brazil, a giant of 210 million inhabitants where the death toll is close to 30,000 dead, containment measures or, on the contrary, deconfinement measures are taken there in dispersed order according to states or cities. And President Jair Bolsonaro regularly calls for the lifting of restrictions to preserve the economy and jobs.

In Rio de Janeiro, the municipality announced on Monday a plan to gradually return to business, the first measures of which take effect on Tuesday. Religious ceremonies can resume and individual water sports, such as surfing or swimming, are again allowed on the miles of beaches in the “Wonderful City”. But no one can stay on the sand.

The state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s first source of coronavirus, as well as its economic engine, began cautiously starting a gradual deconfinement plan on Monday.

Other Latin American countries continue to see an expansion of the disease. In Mexico, the balance sheet crossed Monday the threshold of 10 000 dead even as the country also begins the resumption of its economic activity.

Your own oxygen

Peru surpassed 170,000 confirmed cases and 4,600 deaths on Monday, putting the healthcare system of this country of 33 million people on the verge of collapse. The country is notably facing a shortage of oxygen.

“Some hospitals ask (families of patients) to bring their own oxygen, because unfortunately there is not enough for all patients,” said on a television channel the dean of the council of the Order of the doctors from Lima, Juan Astuvilca.

The United States, for its part, surpassed 105,000 dead on Monday, a toll that makes them, and by far, the country in the world hardest hit by the pandemic.

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