Spurred on by job losses and hunger, countries are moving to ease lockdowns even when daily cases remain high.
After enduring weeks of coronavirus lockdowns, more than 100 million travellers in China flocked to key tourist sites this week, while businesses including barbershops, nail salons and shopping malls reopened in parts of the United States.
Families separated by strict physical-distancing rules in Italy reunited for the first time in two months, and Spaniards rushed out of their homes to exercise after being cooped up for seven weeks.
In Germany, churches, museums and some schools opened their doors, while in Nigeria, the cities of Abuja and Lagos came to life after a month-long shutdown; the streets once again clogged with cars and minibuses.
With the new coronavirus exacting an economic toll unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s – wiping out millions of jobs and raising the spectre of unrest and hunger – governments around the world are trying to chart a way out of prolonged lockdowns and beginning to phase out restrictions. But without a vaccine or widespread testing to identify and stamp out new clusters, health experts warn some leaders are taking a “gamble” that could result in a new surge of infections and deaths.
“We are in uncharted territory,” said Dr Annelise Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Governments are having to strike a balance between this virus and the negative impacts of lockdowns on societies, including economic downturns, societal strife and mental health concerns … No one is totally ready to lift lockdowns.”