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Countries test out and adapt to ‘new normals’ as coronavirus shutdowns relaxed


From outdoor kids’ movies for cooped up apartment dwellers in Rio to online shopping and worship around the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has communities adapting to the realities of living with a pandemic while battling to save their economies.

Japan was preparing to end its coronavirus state of emergency for most regions on Thursday, while New Zealand further relaxed its restrictions after deciding its outbreak is under control.

A strong typhoon was roaring toward the eastern Philippines as authorities struggled to evacuate tens of thousands of people safely during a virus lockdown. Governors said social distancing would be nearly impossible for those in emergency shelters, some of which had been turned into quarantine facilities.

It could be weeks before it’s clear whether reopenings will cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. The trajectory of outbreaks vary wildly, with steep increases in cases in some places, decreases in others and infection rates that can shift dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood.

So, in many parts of the world, communities and individuals are finding inventive ways to cope with what many view as a “new normal.”

Apartment dwellers in Rio de Janeiro were getting some much needed entertainment from children’s movies projected onto screens set up outside their buildings, similar to a drive-in theater.

Cesar Miranda Ribeiro, president of city-owned RioFilme company, said the effort called “Cinema in the Windows” is aimed at “trying to take care of the mental health of the people.”

Chinese looking for some stay-at-home retail therapy have tuned into livestream shopping.

Others seeking spiritual support and human connections are worshipping remotely via online religious services from the Vatican to village churches, to mosques and temples.

“People in general, I think, are looking for more meaning and spirituality in the midst of all this,” said Omar Suleiman, an Islamic leader in Irving, Texas, whose Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research has been uploading YouTube videos. “So I think there’s just a general increase in religiosity and consumption of religious content.”

For most leaders, though, the focus was a far more worldly one: how to get back to business and revive economies reeling from record numbers of job losses and chilling uncertainty.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo was due to hold a news conference to explain plans to lift the country’s state of emergency in most places ahead of schedule as the number of new cases falls, with the exception of Tokyo and several other high-risk areas.

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