Fireworks were set off in at least one section of Wuhan on Saturday as authorities began removing checkpoints used to enforce a strict lockdown since January in the Chinese city considered the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
The checkpoints started coming down after no new cases of COVID-19 were recorded for a third straight day. Other parts of China are also easing restrictions, the South China Morning Post reported, as Wuhan and other cities start returning to work. Routes out of Wuhan will remain blocked, the paper reported
While Wuhan celebrated, the number of confirmed infections worldwide neared 285,000 and deaths climbed toward 12,000, leading governments to take ever more drastic measures to contain the spread.
Spain reported almost 5,000 new infections in 24 hours, sending it into third place in the global ranking of infections, behind China and Italy. Spain now has 25,374 reported cases and 1,375 deaths. Just 2,125 have recovered, while over 1,600 patients are in intensive care units that authorities say have reached their limits. Madrid is the hardest hit region, with almost 9,000 infections.
Spain is tightening restrictions on free movement and closing most stores, as hospitals and nursing homes buckle under the burden of the virus outbreak. Authorities expect infections to continue to rise.
In London, tourist sites were empty Saturday, a day after the government ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other places where people congregate. Pigeons outnumbered people in the usually bustling Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, The Associated Press reported.
There were long lines outside some supermarkets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is meeting with supermarket executives over the weekend about how to keep the shelves filled.
In Cyprus, authorities turned away a boat carrying around 100 migrants because the government banned the entry of foreign nationals to prevent the spread of the virus. Police patrol vessels approached the boat as it was nearing the country’s southeastern coast late Friday and told passengers that they couldn’t get off because of the ban. The passengers were offered food, water and fuel and eventually sailed away after at first trying to refuse to turn around.
A second boat carrying 175 Syrians, including 69 children and 30 women, landed on the Turkish side of Cyprus early Saturday. They were taken to a sports hall for a medical check-up.
In several countries, the military is being called in to help.
The Dutch military is working to transfer coronavirus patients from the hardest-hit region in the Netherlands to hospitals elsewhere in the country.
Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld tweeted that military logistics specialists would be deployed Saturday to help with transfers between hospital intensive care units.
The decision to deploy the military came after hospitals in the hard-hit Brabant region of the southern Netherlands said they are struggling to cope with all the cases.
The Netherlands has confirmed around 3,000 coronavirus cases, including 106 deaths.
And Malaysia is sending in the military to help police enforce a lockdown.
Authorities have struggled to convince Malaysians to stay home during the two-week lockdown, which is at its halfway point, despite the threat of six months’ jail for anyone found outside without a valid reason, according to the South China Morning Post.
Health minister Noor Hisham Abdullah warned Malaysians that if they do not adhere to the restrictions and social distancing the nation could suffer a “tsunami-like” wave of new infections. So far, there are 1,183 cases in the island nation, with four deaths.