France added another month to its nationwide block on Monday to stop the coronavirus pandemic as other hard-hit countries considered easing their measures in the hope that mortality rates could rise soon.
More than half of humanity is currently detained to curb the virus that has killed and infected at least 119,000 people and infected two million people in China since its inception in late last year.
Most of the deaths are in Europe, but the United States is also badly affected – especially the state of New York, where more than 10,000 people have died, almost half of all deaths in the country.
Governments around the world are under pressure to save their economies from collapsing as a result of corporate mass shutdown and human isolation, but officials are also trying to avoid a deadly second wave of the disease.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly stressed that he wants to open the largest economy in the world as soon as possible, and announced on Monday that he would announce guidelines for starting a stalled business this week.
He controversially stated that as president, not as governors, he had "ultimate authority" in deciding when to reopen the closed economy.
He also signaled that the US could overcome the worst outbreak, despite the fact that its experts urged caution.
"It looks like we're going to plateau and maybe even fall in many cases," Trump told reporters about various US metrics, including new cases.
While the governor of New York said the high point was over on Monday, Spain began to ease lockdown orders, and Austria was preparing to reopen some stores.
France did not follow this example, but extended the blockade from March 17 to May 11. After that, schools and companies are to be gradually reopened.
President Emmanuel Macron said the epidemic "had begun to stabilize … (and) hope is returning" and addressed the nation in a television address.
"May 11th will be the beginning of a new phase. It will be progressive and the rules can be adjusted according to our results," he added.
France reported a slight increase in hospital deaths on Monday, although still below last week's record highs, and a slight decrease in ICU patients for a fifth consecutive day.
The World Health Organization said that picking up the curbs too early could trigger a second wave of cases and warned that only a vaccine would completely stop the spread of COVID-19.
"Way to normality"
But at some hotspots there was a glimmer of hope that normal life could soon be resumed.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the "worst is over" in the state, saying he is working on a gradual plan to reopen the economy.
"I think we can start on the road to normality now," he said.
The impact on New York was brutal: unused victims were buried in unmarked mass graves and makeshift morgues for the dead.
Like the Trump administration, European governments were keen to get their economies moving again.
In Spain, where more than 17,000 people died, construction and factory workers were allowed to work again on Monday, and the police distributed face masks to commuters at train stations.
"It's amazing that the government does this either because you can't find them in shops or because they're very expensive," said nurse Brenda Palacios, who took off two masks.
Austria announced that it would reopen small stores as well as hardware stores and garden stores on Tuesday after a one-month ban, while the coronavirus infections would stabilize.
And Italy will try to reopen some bookshops and laundries on Tuesday, even though it has officially extended its national ban until May 3.
Italy is the second most affected country after the United States. The death toll was over 20,000 on Monday. However, the number of seriously ill patients decreased on the 10th day in a row.
In the meantime, German scientists recommended that restrictions be lifted gradually over the course of this week as the rate of new infections declines and the death toll is far below that of other large European countries.
WHO vaccine warning
However, the World Health Organization warned that even the most cautious loosening of the locks is not a replacement for a vaccine – a process that is expected to take at least a year.
"Ultimately, the development and delivery of a safe and effective vaccine will be required to completely stop the transmission," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a virtual briefing from Geneva.
He added that the corona virus was ten times more deadly than the 2009/10 swine flu outbreak.
Similar warnings will weigh heavily on decisions in other countries.
In the UK, Secretary of State Dominic Raab warned that his three-week ban would not be lifted this week since the virus has not yet peaked.
Raab stands up for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was released from the hospital on Sunday after being treated for a coronavirus, and thanks the doctors who he said saved his life.
The UK had 717 deaths on Monday, a slight decrease from the previous day, increasing the number of victims to over 11,000.
China infections are increasing
In China, officials reported 108 new symptomatic cases on Monday, the highest number of confirmed infections in a single day in over a month.
Imported cases made up the majority of the total, officials said.
Russia reported the highest daily increase in recent cases when the capital Moscow began issuing digital travel permits.
And in India, key industries have warned of social unrest, unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes concessions when he announces Tuesday the extension of the three-week ban on the country's 1.3 billion people.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)