South Korea reported 18 new coronavirus cases Saturday after bars and nightclubs were urged to close following a spate of infections, while Pakistan bowed to economic pressure and allowed some businesses to reopen despite a surge in case numbers.
The United States, Brazil and Italy also were wrestling with how to ease curbs on business and public activity. Others imposed new restrictions: Kuwait in the Middle East announced a lockdown from Sunday through May 30.
Worldwide, the virus has infected at least 3.9 million people and killed more than 270,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University based on data reported by governments.
On Friday, South Korea urged nightclubs to close for a month after new cases jumped above 10 for the first time in five days. A decline in new infections had prompted the government to ease social distancing guidelines and announce plans to reopen schools Wednesday.
Most of the new cases are linked to the Itaewon leisure district of the capital, Seoul, where a 29-year-old man visited three nightclubs before testing positive.
Also Saturday, Pakistan allowed shops, factories, construction sites and some other businesses to reopen, while 1,637 new cases and 24 deaths were reported. That was close to Thursday’s one-day peak of 1,764 new infections and raised Pakistan’s total to 27,474.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government is rolling back curbs because it can’t support millions of families that depend on daily wages. The government warned controls will be reimposed if the public fails to follow social distancing guidelines.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government reported Friday unemployment surged to its highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s, likely adding to conflict over when to allow businesses to reopen.
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The Labor Department reported unemployment stood at 14.7 per cent after some 20.5 million jobs vanished in April. The department, citing miscounting of some workers by its survey-takers, said the true rate probably was closer to 20 per cent. Some economists said the total might be even higher at 23.6 per cent, not far from the 1939 peak of 25 per cent.
U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing state governors to allow factories, restaurants and shops to reopen despite warnings that might lead to a deadly spike in infections.
Some states including Texas and South Carolina have allowed some businesses to reopen. Others such as New York, the hardest-hit U.S. state, and Illinois want to see more progress in containing the disease before relaxing controls.