New Zealand Reports No New Coronavirus Cases

New Zealand reported zero new coronavirus cases Monday for the first time since the middle of March. The milestone comes a week after the country began loosening strict lockdown rules in place for a month as the government sought to stop the spread of the virus. “Clearly these are encouraging figures today, but it is just one moment in time,” said Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.   “The real test is later this week when we factor in the incubation period for the virus and the time it takes for people to display symptoms which is generally five to six days after exposure,” Bloomfield added. While New Zealand has made significant progress against the virus with about 1,500 total confirmed cases and 20 deaths, it is taking a cautious approach to reversing stay-at-home measures.  Most schools are still closed, as are most shops and restaurants. Italy, one of the hardest-hit nations, began the process of reopening Monday with factory and construction workers allowed to return to their jobs.  People will also be allowed to take walks and visit relatives, while restaurants will be allowed to provide take-away service. The country has confirmed more than 210,000 cases and about 29,000 deaths. Health officials reported 174 new deaths Sunday, the lowest daily figure in about two months. Businesses also started returning to operations Monday in parts of Malaysia as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin eased lockdown restrictions originally set to expire May 12. Yassin’s government is one of many across the globe considering how to balance measures meant to stop the coronavirus from spreading against the desire to get economic activity going. A man shares supplies through barbed wire fence in the coronavirus lockdown area of Selayang Baru, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 3, 2020. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says the economy needs to be revived.Health officials have cautioned against reopening too quickly and risking a new wave of infections that reverse progress made in recent weeks in areas under lockdown. The virus has strained health care systems and forced governments to take novel approaches to increasing capacity to care for patients. In Mexico City, officials are converting areas of the Formula One racetrack into medical bays with about 200 beds along with facilities for consultations with people who are reporting COVID-19 symptoms. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce his government is extending Japan’s state of emergency through the end of the month. The restrictions were due to expire Wednesday in the country that has reported about 15,000 infections and 500 deaths. A major focus for dealing with COVID-19 is the search for a vaccine, which the World Health Organization says currently involves about 90 different potential formulations in several countries. Those vaccines must be tested both for safety and to prove they are effective before doses can be manufactured for the public.  Health officials have cautioned the process could take 12 to 18 months. But U.S. President Donald Trump was more optimistic Sunday, saying he thinks there will be a vaccine by the end of this year. There are more than 3.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with nearly 250,000 deaths. 

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