Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19 Are Starting to Lift Social Restrictions After Encouraging New Recovery Rates

As the world continues its fight to curb the novel coronavirus outbreaks, several countries have announced significant recoveries this week.

France, Italy, and Spain—the countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases outside of the US—outlined their plans for slowly lifting their various social restrictions as rates of infection and fatality continue to fall.

In light of Italy recording their lowest number of new cases since March 10th, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says that the country will begin reopening the economy on May 4th. Although schools will not reopen until September, small businesses and restaurants will soon be allowed to reopen so long as customers are limited to takeout options and social distancing guidelines. Factories will also be reopened for manufacturing and people will be allowed to visit their relatives in small numbers.

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Meanwhile, Spain celebrated a significant decline in coronavirus-related deaths, with daily counts falling below 300 for the first time since March 20th. Government officials say that they will be slow to reopen the economy; however, they will start to lift social restrictions by allowing children to play outside for one hour per day—a first for the nation’s youth after spending six weeks in isolation.

Al Jazeera reports that France also hailed their largest single-day drop in COVID-19 deaths after it fell by more than 33% in just 24 hours. The country also recorded their lowest number of in-hospital deaths in 5 weeks.

New Zealand was quick to enact some of the world’s strictest social restrictions after confirming just a few cases of the virus back in March. Now, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that the nation’s pre-emptive shutdowns has succeeded in eliminating community transmission of COVID-19 this week. This means that while there will still most likely be new cases of the virus, healthcare officials will know where it is being transmitted.

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Although New Zealand has had 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of novel coronavirus over the course of the last two months, government officials report that they will still be cautious in gradually lifting social restrictions, starting with some non-essential businesses.

South Australia also announced that they are considering easing travel restrictions after the nation made it 7 days without a new recorded case. This accomplishment is largely credited to the province testing more than 15,000 people within a two-week period. There are now currently only 14 active cases.

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Taiwan has been celebrating its own milestone of 17 straight days without any new local cases as well as its first 4-day streak without any new domestic or imported COVID-19 cases.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

Representative photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez

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Reports Find Social Restrictions Are Working to Curb New COVID-19 Cases From Italy to Seattle

As more and more US states and world regions implement various stay-at-home orders and shutdowns during the COVID-19 outbreaks, some areas that have been hit hardest by the virus are showing that the restrictions are working.

Since symptoms of the novel coronavirus generally start to show within two weeks of infection, today’s infections are the result of interactions from early March. China has slowly begun lifting its strict social restrictions since their quarantine regulation helped the nation recover from the virus.

It has now been roughly two weeks since Italy ordered a nationwide lockdown amidst the outbreaks, and rates of infection have steadily been declining since the country’s first recorded death on February 21st.

According to The Times of Israel, the daily infection rate in Italy reached a high of 57% back in early March. Last week, it reached a record-low of 7.5%.

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“The slowdown in the [infections] growth rate is extremely positive,” World Health Organization deputy director Ranieri Guerra reportedly told Italy’s Capitale radio. “I think the measures taken [by Italy] are absolutely correct—perhaps with a certain delay at the start, but that is understandable.”

Similarly in the US, six Bay Area counties became the first in the nation to implement stay-at-home orders in mid-March followed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide order three days later. Although many Californian hospitals have been struggling to address ventilator and bed shortages, some researchers report that the virus has been spreading slower than they initially thought—and it’s likely because of the lockdowns.

Dr. Timothy Dyster, a resident physician from the University of California San Francisco, published some encouraging datasets on Twitter, illustrating how the weeks-long uptick in new infections fell for the first time this week—and it may indicate a continuing decline in infection rates.

“These data should be regarded as a ‘cheer from the sidelines’ in this marathon we’re on together,” wrote Dyster. “It’s been hard work and sacrifice, and it will continue to be, but there might be some early evidence that those efforts are paying off,” Dyster said. “So please, keep staying home and keep washing your hands!”

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Jahan Fahimi, another physician from UCSF, added: “We’ve been anxiously awaiting the surge of COVID19 patients in San Francisco. The number of hospital cases increase slowly daily. But, it hit me today… we are in a flattened curve.

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“While the surge is surely still coming, we have time. Each day we are more prepared. By delaying the surge, hospitals have time to: get ventilators, open respiratory isolation wards, stockpile PPE, integrate telemedicine, expand testing, train workforce, [and] learn from colleagues in hot spots.”

Officials in Seattle told The New York Times this week that their lockdowns are also reflecting a decline in new cases as the rate of individual person-to-person infections has reportedly fallen from 2.7 people to 1.4.

With 29 American states now maintaining stay-at-home orders, Kinsa Health—a company that has been producing and distributing internet-connected thermometers—launched an online map of the country which depicted rates of fevers, colds, and flus.

Within days of creating the map on March 22nd, the researchers noted a significant decline in commonly transmitted sicknesses. Although the map does not offer evidence that social restrictions are curbing COVID-19 cases, The Times does report that new datasets from New York and Washington have confirmed the trends illustrated by the map.

RELATED: Another Roundup of Positive Updates on the COVID Outbreaks From Around the World

Not only that, Kinsa Health’s influenza predictions have reportedly been two to three weeks ahead of those from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention—and the company is now working to share their technology with government health agencies to continue monitoring disease trends for the public.

“As of March 30th, we have seen illness levels in [New York City] drop to normal levels for this time of year, and we are seeing similar trends across the entire country,” writes the company. “This does not mean that COVID-19 cases are declining. In fact, we expect to see reported cases continue to surge in the near term, but this data indicates these measures are starting to slow the spread.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Hundreds of Endangered Languages Are Being Preserved Thanks to This Guy and His Army of Volunteers

Out of the 7,000 languages that are spoken around the world, 500 of them are at risk of being forgotten and lost to the annals of history.

Thankfully, Daniel Bögre Udell has created an online library to preserve them all.

Udell is the co-founder of Wikitongues—a nonprofit dedicated to saving the world’s endangered languages from extinction.

More than 1,000 international volunteers contribute to the Wikitongue language library by interviewing people in their native languages.

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Some of the participants use their mother tongue to talk about their culture and language—others simply use their video interviews to talk about themselves; regardless of the topics, all of the video interviews are catalogued and documented through the Wikitongue website.

When Great Big Story interviewed Udell back in April, he said the organization’s volunteers had recorded more than 435 languages from 70 countries ranging from Aruan Malay to Finnish sign language—and that number is increasing every day.

(WATCH the video below) – Photo by Great Big Story

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