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In Spain, one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, coronavirus deaths are starting to slow.
While the virus is not yet fully contained in the country, daily deaths have nearly halved since the beginning of April, when some 950 deaths were recorded in a single day. Yesterday, 510 deaths were recorded.
Similarly, in Iran, the worst affected country in the Middle East, the number of new daily cases has been slashed and is down by about half from the numbers recorded in late March.
While neither country is out of the woods just yet, both are applying tentative steps in an attempt to reopen their countries on what they hope is the tail end of one of the worst pandemics in a century.
On Saturday, Spain’s government announced guidelines for citizens returning to work, such as mandatory disbursement of protective equipment to employees and guarantees that their working space is at least two meters (six feet) away from others.
On lockdown since mid-March, Spain is now set to open some construction and manufacturing businesses on Monday, which will allow thousands to go back to work.
In Iran, meanwhile, most “low-risk” businesses – including most shops, factories and workshops – also resumed operations on Saturday.
Governments stress caution
In response to the changes, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that “easing restrictions does not mean ignoring health protocols,” and emphasized that “social distancing and other health protocols should be respected seriously by people.”
In Iran, many government offices also reopened, albeit with only two-thirds of their staff in order to reduce overcrowding.
For Spanish officials, the moves towards reopening the economy were met with similar caution, with some even downplaying the changes.
“We are still in the confinement phase,” said Spain’s Health Minister, Salvador Illa. “We haven’t begun any relaxation (of the restrictions),” he warned.
According to reports, Spain plans on distributing around 10 million masks to travelers on public transportation hubs within the next several days to help prevent further spread of the virus.
Health expert warnings
While some leaders, like US President Donald Trump, have been grappling over when to start reopening the economy, health experts have largely remained cautious.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a hasty reopening of countries and their economies could lead to a “deadly resurgence” of the virus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said that the organization will be working with individual countries to suggest the best possible time frames to reopen given their unique circumstances. “I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions,” he said. “WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone. At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”