THE world is “on a knife edge” as coronavirus cases spike and cities shut down again after lockdowns are lifted.
The dangers of easing restrictions have been highlighted this week after Germany and Spain saw cases spike as they try to edge out of quarantine, while China was forced to tighten regulations to fight off a “second wave”.
Germany has slowly been easing its lockdown after faring better than its European neighbours, allowing non-essential businesses to reopen around a week ago.
But the country reported 1,304 new cases of the virus on Wednesday – up from 1,144 on Tuesday and 1,018 on Monday.
The country’s virus reproduction rate – known as “R” – which measures how many people the average person with Covid-19 infects has also bounced back to just below one.
That means one person with the virus infects one other, on average.
Earlier this month, the rate was at 0.7.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned if the R rate increases even slightly above 1 then the country’s health service faces being overwhelmed.
She said: “If we get to a point where each patient is infecting 1.1 people, then by October we will be back at the limits of our health system in terms of intensive-care beds.
“If we get to 1.2 . . . then we will hit the full capacity of our health system as early as July.”
There has also been a steady rise in the number of deaths from 117 on April 25 to 188 on April 28 and the country has already been planning for a second wave of killer coronavirus.
In Spain – which has allowed some non-essential workers to go back to work – the death toll rose by 453 on Wednesday – up from 301 the previous day.
The number of new infections also shot up by 4,771 – compared to 2,706 and 2,793 the previous two days.
The figures come as the country prepares to ease restrictions further, with hairdressers and other small businesses due to start reopening next month.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez announced on Tuesday a four-phase plan to lift the lockdown.
The implementation will vary from province to province depending on the infection and death rates, as well as other things like hospital capacity.
One island in Japan has also been hit by a second wave of coronavirus after taking the decision to lift its lockdown.
Hokkaido eased restrictions on March 19, allowing businesses and schools to reopen after cases fell to one or two a day.
But 26 days later, the island has re-enforced its lockdown after 135 new cases were reported in a week.
Dr Kiyoshi Nagase, chairman of the Hokkaido Medical Association, told TIME: “Now I regret it, we should not have lifted the first state of emergency.
“It really may not be until next year that we can safely lift these lockdowns.”
In China too – where the deadly bug originated – there have been signs of a feared “second wave” after lockdown restrictions were eased in recent weeks.
A city of 11million was put on lockdown last week after a “silent super spreader” infected 70 people.
And China has shut down gyms and swimming pools in Beijing this week amid fears of a fresh outbreak.
It’s feared these actions show the Chinese authorities are battling a fresh spike in cases.
But the true extent of the spread there is impossible to know for sure, with many questioning the validity of official figures.
In other countries, however, there have been more positive signs.
In Austria, new cases have remained below 100 for nearly two weeks now since reopening some non-essential shops.
The country plans to ease more restrictions throughout May, allowing more businesses and even hotels to reopen and abandoning restrictions on non-essential movement.
And in Denmark, the number of new daily cases have stayed under 200 for almost a week, apart from a spike of 235 on April 25.
It began lifting its restrictions on April 15 by reopening schools, before allowing more shops and hairdressers to reopen this week.
Norway, the Czech Republic, and Poland are also seeing tentative signs of success.
The UK Government and others are nervously watching nations where restrictions have been lifted to see if there is a dreaded “second wave”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told a press conference yesterday: “This issue of a second spike and the need to avoid it – it’s not a theoretical risk, and it is not confined to the UK.
“Having relaxed restrictions in Germany over the past week, they have seen a rise in the transmission rate of coronavirus.
“And Chancellor Merkel has said publically, and she has made it clear, that they might need a second lockdown in Germany if the infection rate continues to rise.
“So, this risk is very real.”
France is also looking to ease its own lockdown from May 11, with the country divided into “green” and “red” zones that will have restrictions lifted at different speeds.
But the country’s PM Edouard Philippe said it was a delicate balancing act which rested “on a knife’s edge”.
He said: “We must protect the French people without paralysing France to the point that it collapses.
“A little too much carefreeness and the epidemic takes off again. Too much prudence and the whole country buckles.”