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New Zealand Could Lift Major Coronavirus Restrictions Next Week

By VOA News June 02, 2020

New Zealand leaders could decide as early as next week to lift restrictions on social distancing and group gatherings due to the country's success in halting the spread of the coronavirus.

"Our strategy of go hard, go early has paid off," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday.

The country instituted strict lockdown measures for more than six weeks and now has reported 11 consecutive days with no new confirmed cases.

Cabinet members will decide Monday whether to move into the next phase of the government's slow easing of restrictions under which the country's borders would still remain closed.

"We will be one of the first countries in the world to return to this level of normality so quickly," Ardern said.

In France, Tuesday brought a step toward normalcy with restaurants, bars and cafes in Paris allowed to open to customers with outdoor seating.

As many countries plan when to allow international tourists again, the U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization is recommending a series of precautions for air travel.

The ICAO says travelers should have their temperatures checked when they arrive at the airport, should carry minimal luggage and be required to wear face masks on board planes and in terminals where social distancing is not possible.

The recommendations also include airlines providing flight attendants with protective equipment such as medical masks, gloves and visors.

In Nicaragua, where the government has not instituted the type of lockdown orders seen in many parts of the world, a group of more than 30 medical associations issued an open letter calling for three or four weeks of quarantine to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The groups said Nicaragua is in a phase of accelerated expansion and community transmission, and that if authorities continue to deny the situation then the loss of life will get worse.

The World Health Organization said Monday that Central and South America "have very much become the intense zones of transmission" for the coronavirus at this time.

"I don't believe that we have reached the peak in that transmission, and at this point, I cannot predict when we will," said Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program.

He said the countries reporting the biggest increases in cases are Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and Bolivia.

Mexico's health ministry reported its death toll had surpassed 10,000 people. The country has confirmed more than 93,000 cases, but officials say the true figure is much higher.

In the United States, COVID-19 has killed about 26,000 nursing home residents, the government reported, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all U.S. deaths from the disease. About 450 nursing home staffers have also died of COVID-19.

"This data, and anecdotal reports across the country, clearly show that nursing homes have been devastated by the virus," CDC Director Robert Redfield and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma said in a letter to state governors.

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