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As lockdown eases in Europe, spike in Asia coronavirus cases warns of second wave

PARIS

A resurgence of new cases in China’s ground zero Wuhan has warned the world of a sceond wave of new cases, causing worries for many as many European countries start easing the restrictions on the coroanvirus led lockdowns on Monday,

The mixed fortunes illustrated the high-wire act governments face across the globe as they try to get economies moving while keeping in check a pandemic that has now killed more than 280,000 people.

As Britain plotted a path to normality and France and Spain basked in a relaxation of restrictions, the Chinese city where the pandemic was born reported a second day of new cases after a month without sign of the virus.

And neighbouring South Korea announced its highest number of infections for more than a month driven by a cluster in a Seoul nightlife district.

With millions out of work and economies shattered, governments are desperate to hit the accelerator, but most are choosing a gradual approach as fears about a resurgence of the virus linger.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was too soon for the country to lift its lockdown but he offered hope by unveiling a “conditional plan” to ease curbs in England during the months ahead.

Johnson said the restrictions had brought “a colossal cost to our way of life” but it would be “madness” to squander the nation’s progress by moving too early.

Almost seven weeks after a nationwide stay-at-home order was put in place, more than 31,800 have died in Britain — a figure second only to the United States.

Elsewhere in Europe, however, officials have been emboldened by declining death rates, with France’s toll dropping to 70 on Sunday — its lowest since early April — and Spain’s daily fatalities falling below 200. The French were able to walk outside without filling in a permit for the first time in nearly eight weeks on Monday, while teachers began returning to primary schools and some shops were set to re-open, causing a surge in the numbers using the Paris metro.

“If it’s like this at 6:00 am, imagine how it’s going to be in two hours — this is going to be impossible,” said one rider named Brigitte early Monday morning on a crowded train.

Many Spaniards, meanwhile, made plans to meet friends and family at outdoor restaurants, although virus hotspots such as Madrid and Barcelona remain under wraps.

Germany too has set in motion the re-opening of shops, eateries, schools and gyms, but the process was thrown in doubt Sunday by official data indicating the virus appears to be picking up speed again.

Chancellor Angela Merkel only days ago declared the country could gradually return to normal, but the figures showed the reproduction rate of the virus had exceeded the critical figure of 1.0, meaning one person infects on average more than one other.

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