Coronavirus hits superpowers as some nations look to reopen

Tube station opens and countries open post quarantine

Amid warnings from health officials against reopening economies too quickly, Covid-19 has begun to strike inside some of the world’s superpowers.

A senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been admitted to hospital after contracting the coronavirus, just days after US Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary also tested positive.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was sent to hospital in the latest in a series of setbacks for the Russian leader as the country struggles to contain the growing outbreak.

The announcement of Mr Peskov’s case came a day after Mr Putin announced Russia was easing some of its nationwide lockdown restrictions.

Mr Peskov is not the only top Russian government official to come down with the coronavirus. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin revealed on April 30 he had tested positive for the virus, as have two other government ministers.

It comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson battled Covid-19 in intensive care last month, underscoring the reach and spread of the virus.

There have been more than 4.2 million confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and more than 287,000 deaths. Russia has reported more than 232,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,100 virus-related deaths as of Tuesday, figures experts say are likely significant undercounts.

The climbing death tolls come as the US government’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned “the consequences could be really serious” if American cities and states reopen the US economy too quickly. More than 80,000 people have died of the virus in the country.

More Covid-19 infections are inevitable as people again start gathering, but how prepared communities are to stamp out those sparks will determine how bad the rebound is, Dr Fauci told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

If there is a rush to reopen without following guidelines, “my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said.

The World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief Michael Ryan said Germany and South Korea had strong contact tracing systems that hopefully could detect and stop virus clusters before they grew out of control.

But he said other nations, which he did not name, had not effectively used investigators to contact people who tested positive, nor tracked down their contacts and quarantined them before they could spread the virus.

“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Dr Ryan said. “Certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”

In the US, detailed recommendations on when and how businesses and institutions can reopen from America’s top disease control experts show their guidance is more restrictive than that put forth by the Trump administration.

The Associated Press (AP) obtained a 63-page document that is more detailed than other, previously reported segments of the shelved guidance from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The shelved CDC guide advises communities to avoid all non-essential travel in phases of reopening until the last one, when cases are at the lowest levels.

Even then, the CDC is cautious and advises only a “consideration” of the resumption of non-essential travel after 42 continuous days of declining cases of Covid-19.

The White House plan, by contrast, recommends communities “minimise” travel in Phase 1, and that in Phase 2, after 28 consecutive days of decline, “non-essential travel can resume”.

As US states begin to loosen stay-at-home restrictions and businesses get up and running, an AP analysis shows thousands of people are catching Covid-19 on the job.

Recent figures show a surge of infections in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants. There has been a spike of new cases among construction workers in Austin, Texas.

Of the 15 US counties with the highest per-capita infection rates between April 28 and May 5, all have meatpacking and poultry-processing plants or state prisons, according to data compiled by the AP.

In Italy, a major jump in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the hard-hit Lombardy region contributed to the country’s highest day-to-day increase in several days.

According to Health Ministry data, 1,033 cases were confirmed in Lombardy in the 24-hours to Tuesday evening, accounting for the majority of Italy’s 1,402 new cases. In contrast, the previous few days had shown Lombardy’s daily new caseload running in the few hundreds.

Overall, Italy counts 221,216 confirmed coronavirus infections. Experts say the true number is doubtlessly much higher, pointing out that many people with mild symptoms often do not seek testing.

Authorities registered 172 deaths in infected patients in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday evening, raising to 30,911 Italy’s confirmed death toll. Nearly half of those deaths have occurred in Lombardy, where the country’s outbreak began in late February.

Health officials are anxiously awaiting daily case numbers later in the week to determine if a partial lifting of lockdown restrictions on May 4 caused any rise in contagion rates.

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