People observe social distancing as they talk in Cannes, France, on April 18, 2020. (Photo by Serge Haouzi/Xinhua)
With continuous drop in the daily numbers of new deaths and new infections in European countries hit hard by COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic is showing more encouraging signs of abating, bringing hope to this continent.
In Europe, over 1.12 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 100,000 deaths have been reported so far, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
On Sunday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that lifting lockdown restrictions for COVID-19 is not the end of the epidemic, it's just the beginning of the next phase.
In Spain, the health ministry on Sunday confirmed that 410 COVID-19 patients had died in the 24-hour period until 21:00 local time (1900 GMT) on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 20,453.
The new deaths, a four-week trough, were considerably fewer than the 565 reported on Saturday. The same period saw 4,218 new cases -- lower than the 4,499 cases on Saturday -- pushing the country's total infections to 195,944.
Meanwhile, 77,357 patients have recovered in Spain, 2,695 more than on Saturday.
Italy also reported a continued fall in daily fatalities. In the past 24 hours, 433 people had died of COVID-19, raising the country's death toll to 23,660, official data showed on Sunday.
Sunday's number of new deaths was the smallest in a week, representing the fourth time in five days that the number of COVID-19 victims fell in Italy.
According to fresh figures from Italy's Civil Protection Department, the total number of confirmed cases -- combining active infections, fatalities and recoveries -- rose to 178,972, a daily increase of 3,047 against Saturday.
Sunday marked the first time since late February that the Italian department did not hold a daily briefing, another sign that the situation is improving.
In France, Director General of Health Jerome Salomon confirmed "a slow decline" in the spread of coronavirus, after the updated data on the epidemic indicated decelerating cases in hospitals and fatalities.
As of Sunday, the COVID-19 has claimed 19,718 fatalities in France, 395 more compared with the previous day's total. The daily death toll was down from 642 on Saturday and 761 on Friday. The number of hospitalized patients was 30,610, 29 less than Saturday's 30,639.
There were signs that pressures on hospitals were easing as the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care have dropped for 11 days in a row, said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at Sunday's press conference.
"SLOWLY BUT SURELY"
The coronavirus pandemic situation is improving "slowly but surely" in France though it is far from over, Philippe told the press conference.
"We lived in an unprecedented sanitary crisis, which is not over ... We are scoring points against the epidemic. The situation is improving slowly but surely. But we are not out of the health crisis yet," the prime minister said.
"After the sanitary crisis, there would be an economic crisis, which would be brutal," Philippe added.
A return to normal life is not to be expected for the short term, he said. "Our life from May 11 will not be like our life before, not immediately, and probably not for a long time," said Philippe, adding that "we should learn how to live with the virus."
The WHO chief was cautious on Sunday when speaking at the Group of 20 (G20) Health Ministers virtual meeting from Geneva.
"We are encouraged that several G20 countries are now starting to plan how to ease social restrictions. It is critical that these measures are a phased process," Tedros said.
He said it's vital in this next phase that countries educate, engage and empower their people to prevent and respond rapidly to any resurgence. Enditem