Australians could go out to eat for the first time in weeks on Saturday, but the reopening of restaurants, pubs and cafes came with a stark warning – Do not overdo it.
Public health experts are urging caution as governments ease restrictions on eateries, shops and parks in many countries and roll out measures to restart dormant factories.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide, has slowed in many places but could pick up again if adequate precautions are not taken or officials move too quickly to get people back to work.
Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association, said: “The message is, yes, appreciate all the efforts, appreciate the opportunity to release some of those measures, but let’s not have a party, let’s not go to town.”
Most restaurants in Australia are limited to 10 customers at a time, and Mr Bartone said people must maintain social distancing, follow coughing etiquette, wash their hands regularly and stay away from others if they are ill.
In the United States, an Associated Press analysis found 41 of the nation’s 50 states fall short of the Covid-19 testing levels that experts say are necessary to avoid another wave of outbreaks, even as some of those states move aggressively to allow businesses to reopen.
Rapid, widespread testing is considered essential to tracking and containing coronavirus. The AP analysis is based on metrics developed by Harvard University’s Global Health Institute.
Harvard researchers have calculated the US needs to test at least 900,000 people daily to reopen the economy safely, nearly three times the current tally of about 360,000, according to figures compiled by the Covid Tracking Project website.
Among the states falling short are Texas and Georgia, which have reopened shopping centres, barbers, and other businesses.
Dr Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, said: “I really do feel there are dangers here to opening up without enough tests, but I don’t feel it’s a uniform danger everywhere in the country.”
New York state is moving more cautiously, allowing smaller cities and rural regions spared the brunt of the outbreak to reopen first.
The first wave will include retail – though only for kerb-side or in-store pick-up – along with construction and manufacturing.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo has also said beaches will reopen in time for next weekend’s Memorial Day holiday.
In South Korea, which has one of the highest levels of testing, a health ministry spokesman said on Saturday that the country may have dodged a major outbreak after finding 162 cases linked to clubgoers in Seoul, the densely populated capital.
Son Young-rae said 46,000 people have been tested in the club-related outbreak.
“It’s notable there were no new transmissions in churches, call centres and gyms where virus carriers went to,” he said, adding that is a sign facilities and businesses are practising proper hygiene and enforcing distance between people.
China is shortening its annual legislative session, which begins next week in Beijing, as small clusters of cases pop up elsewhere in the country. The spread of the disease has largely stopped in the country where the pandemic started, but Jilin province in the north-east has reported 28 cases over nine days, the latest two on Friday.
In Mexico, the number of new confirmed cases hit a new daily high on Friday, even as the government clarified guidelines for the construction, mining and automotive industries to start returning to work next week.
The country recorded more than 2,000 cases for the second day in a row, suggesting its outbreak has yet to peak.