New coronavirus clusters have surfaced around the world as countries struggle to balance reopening economies and preventing a second wave of infections, with a debate erupting across Europe over the northern summer travel season.
Authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic was first detected late last year, reportedly were pressing ahead on Wednesday to test all 11 million residents for the virus within 10 days after a handful of new infections were found.
In Lebanon, authorities reinstated a country-wide lockdown for four days beginning on Wednesday night after a spike in reported infections and complaints from officials that distancing rules were being ignored.
Despite the risk that loosening restrictions could lead to infection spikes, European countries have been seeking to restart cross-border travel, particularly as the summer holiday season looms for those whose economies rely on tourists flocking to their beaches, museums and historical sites.
The European Union unveiled a plan to help citizens across its 27 members salvage their summer holiday after months of coronavirus lockdown and resurrect Europe's badly battered tourism industry. The pandemic has prompted border closures across the continent and shut down the lifeline of cheap local flights.
The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, laid out its advice for lifting ID checks at closed borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew as well as preparing health measures for hotels.
It's not clear whether EU countries will follow that advice, since they, not Brussels, have the final say over health and security matters.
Some European countries have sought bilateral agreements with their neighbours.
Austria said its border with Germany would reopen fully on June 15, and that border checks would be reduced starting on Friday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Austria was aiming for similar agreements with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and its eastern neighbours "as long as the infection figures allow".
But he said it's too early to talk about such measures with Italy, one of the world's hardest-hit countries, with more than 220,000 infections and 30,000 deaths.
"There's no perspective for opening the border soon," Kurz told reporters Wednesday.
Norway said on Wednesday it was opening its borders to people from other European countries who have family ties there.
Justice Minister Monica Maeland said Norway, which is not an EU member, is opening up for EU citizens, seasonal workers and people from the UK, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The tension in balancing people's safety against the severe economic fallout is playing out across the world. Italy partially lifted lockdown restrictions last week only to record a big jump in confirmed coronavirus cases in its hardest-hit region. Pakistan reported 2000 new infections in a single day after crowds of people crammed into local markets as restrictions were eased.
European countries have begun slowly easing their lockdowns, from barber shops reopening next week in Belgium to some schools starting up again soon in Portugal. But a raft of safety rules are being put in place, including reducing the number of children in Belgian preschool classes and various forms of social distancing.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 4.2 million people and killed 292,000, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. Experts say the actual numbers are likely far higher.
Australian Associated Press