NEW coronavirus cases dropped to zero in China for the first time on Saturday but overwhelmed hospitals across Latin America – both in countries lax about lockdowns and those lauded for firm, early confinement. The virus hit a reopened church in Germany and possibly a restaurant, too. The pandemic’s persistence stymied authorities struggling to keep people safe and revive their economies at the same time, disrupting the Memorial Day weekend in the United States and collective celebrations around the Muslim world marking the end of the holy month of Ramzan.
In countries with weak health care systems, impoverished populations and not enough clean water, fighting the virus is increasingly difficult. “I’m a mother, if I don’t go out and sell, my children won’t have food to eat. I am obliged to go out and come here to sell the products despite the danger that we are in,” said Nagnouma Kante, a market vendor in the capital of Guinea. Turkey imposed its toughest lockdown measures yet starting Saturday for the end of Ramadan, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels urged believers to use masks and stay inside as authorities around the Muslim world try to contain infections at a time usually marked by days of multigenerational feasting and collective prayer.
Elsewhere, many Governments are easing restrictions as they face historic recessions brought on by the global battle against the virus. In just a few months, the pandemic has killed at least 338,000 people worldwide and infected more than 5.2 million, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. In Germany, which has drawn praise for its handling of the virus, seven people appear to have been infected with the coronavirus at a restaurant in the northwest of the country.
It would be the first known such case since restaurants started reopening in the country two weeks ago, with precautions including a 2-meter (6½-foot) distance between tables, masks for waiters and an obligation to take the name, address and phone number of guests so that possible infections can be traced.