With more than 73,000 dead in the United States, the coronavirus epidemic is “worse” than the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks, Donald Trump said on Wednesday as Europe gradually emerges from the confinement and begins a start of normalization with a strong symbol, the imminent resumption of the football championship in Germany.
“It was the worst attack our country has ever faced. It is worse than Pearl Harbor,” said Mr. Trump, referring to Japan’s surprise attack on the US military base in Hawaii in 1941, which had pushed the United States to enter World War II.
“It’s worse than the World Trade Center,” he added, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead.
The American president again attacked China, the cradle of the pandemic, saying that “it should never have happened”.
Beijing and Washington have indeed continued their exchanges of invectives: the American diplomacy chief Mike Pompeo again affirmed to have “significant proofs” that the Covid-19 had propagated since a laboratory of Wuhan, in the center of China, even if he admitted to having “no certainties”.
“No time to waste!”
That morning, the Chinese authorities had categorically rejected these accusations, as had the idea – advanced by Washington and supported by several Western countries – of an international investigation.
Pompeo “cannot present evidence” of a leak out of this laboratory “because he does not have one,” assured the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. “The priority is to focus on the fight against the pandemic until the final victory (…). We have no time to lose because we must save lives,” he said.
Since its officially declared appearance in December in Wuhan, the new coronavirus has killed more than 260,000 people worldwide, according to a report which is certainly underestimated, and has forced more than half of humanity to remain confined.
The United States, the country most affected, still deplored more than 2,000 in 24 hours Wednesday, with a record of more than 73,000 deaths in total. The other countries most affected are the United Kingdom (30,076 dead), Italy (29,684), Spain (25,857) and France (25.809).
The pandemic now seems to be under control in Europe, the most bereaved continent, which has started for about two weeks a gradual and cautious deconfinement.
As a sign of this development, Berlin gave the green light on Wednesday to the mid-May resumption of the Bundesliga, interrupted two months ago when the coronavirus put international sport on forced rest. It will be the first major football championship to restart, but behind closed doors and with drastic hygiene and prevention measures.
If France has drawn a line under the end of its season, England with its Premier League, Spain and Italy hope to resume in June. Other countries have already set their recovery date, including Serbia (May 30), Croatia (June 6) and Turkey (June 12). Portugal is also preparing for the recovery. In Belgium, on the other hand, the competitions remain suspended until the end of July.
The return to normal in Germany goes beyond football. With the latest infection figures “very satisfactory”, Berlin decided Wednesday to lift almost all restrictions imposed since mid-March on the largest European economy to curb contagion.
“So we have reached a point where we can say that we have reached the goal of slowing the spread of the virus,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The federal government’s agreement with the regions (Länder) provides for the reopening from next week of all stores, including those of more than 800 square meters which were still closed, and of all schools. Restaurants and hotels will reopen regionally starting next week.
Notable exceptions: the closing of borders and the prohibition of major sporting, festive or cultural events with the public.
In neighboring Denmark, health officials also believe that Covid-19 should disappear in the short term as a result of containment measures, but they still fear a second wave of the disease.
But in Spain, the Parliament voted to extend the state of alert until May 23. A “precipitated” deconfinement of the country would be an “absolute, total and unforgivable error”, warned Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to defend this regime strictly limiting travel.
In Poland, the presidential election scheduled for Sunday May 10 has been postponed to a later date, to be specified, due to the pandemic.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was attacked on Wednesday by the Leader of the Opposition over the heavy official record of the Covid-19 in the country.
“How did we get there?”, Labor Party leader Keir Starmer asked a sparse House of Commons, while alarmed at the number of deaths “climbing” in retirement homes. Mr. Johnson has promised to unveil his deconfinement strategy this Sunday.
On the economic front, the European Commission on Wednesday predicted a “historic” recession in the EU this year, with a record drop in GDP of 7.7% in the euro zone, then a rebound of 6.3% in 2021.
Not surprisingly, the countries where the strongest recessions are expected are Greece (-9.7%), Italy (-9.5%) and Spain (-9.4%), whose economies are highly dependent on tourism.
This sector, on which more than 300 million jobs and 10% of world GDP depend, is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic while the major Western capitals like Berlin, Paris, London or New York are deserted by tourists. .
Airbnb, one of the emblematic companies of global tourism, will thus part with 25% of its 7,500 employees.
The situation remains worrying in Africa. Chad will isolate the capital, N’Djamena, and 22 other cities for two weeks on Friday to curb the spread of the virus.
In Nigeria, authorities in northern Jigawa state are investigating dozens of deaths in the very poor region, days after neighboring Kano state blamed dozens of “mysterious deaths” for the coronavirus.
The IMF has approved emergency financial aid to Kenya and Uganda to help them weather the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.