By Agence France-Presse
Millions of Europeans emerged from lockdown on Monday, with hardest-hit Italy leading the way out of its two-month coronavirus confinement.
At least 3.5 million people are now known to have been infected by the disease, but US President Donald Trump offered hope for an end to the nightmare, saying there would be a vaccine by year’s end.
Around 248,000 people have died since the coronavirus emerged in China late last year and swept across the globe, given wings by the vast network of air routes that in normal times keep the modern world ticking.
Lockdowns imposed on half of the planet in a bid to stem the spread have derailed economies and left tens of millions of people out of work.
Politicians are now grappling with how to get the wheels turning again without sparking a second wave of infections.
Italy — second only to the United States in its COVID-19 death toll — was gingerly emerging into the spring sunshine on Monday, with construction sites and factories getting back to work.
Restaurants reopened for takeaways, but bars and ice cream parlours will remain shut. The use of public transport is being discouraged and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
“We are feeling a mix of joy and fear,” 40-year-old Stefano Milano said in Rome.
“There will be great happiness in being able to go running again carefree, in my son being allowed to have his little cousin over to blow out his birthday candles, to see our parents,” the father-of-three said.
Italy’s economy — the eurozone’s third-largest — is expected to shrink more than in any year since the global depression of the 1930s.
The previously booming economy in the United States was supposed to be the centrepiece of Donald Trump’s November re-election bid.
But weeks of lockdown have left 30 million Americans out of work — and the president’s poll numbers sagging.
Trump has increasingly taken to blaming China for the outbreak, and says there is proof it started in a Chinese laboratory.