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Covid-19: Balancing lives and livelihoods

Governments everywhere are walking a fine line between protecting their citizens and preserving their economies during the coronavirus pandemic. That line may be shifting as the economic pressure rises.

Germany and New Zealand are among countries rolling back restrictions as infections and deaths decline. But the picture is less clear-cut elsewhere.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers yesterday he hoped to start relaxing Britain’s lockdown from Monday, even as 648 additional deaths made his the first European nation to record more than 30,000 fatalities from the pandemic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave regional governors a green light to begin cautiously easing stay-at-home measures from May 12, after officials told him economic activity had slumped 33% during the lockdown. Russia reported a record 11,231 new cases today, overtaking Germany in total infections.

President Donald Trump decisively focused the federal government’s efforts this week toward reopening the U.S. economy, even as he acknowledged the price may be more deaths. With the greatest number of fatalities of any country — 71,000 and counting — Trump rejected a Johns Hopkins University analysis showing the daily death toll could reach 3,000 by June 1.

To be sure, keeping economies locked down also can carry a price in lives and livelihoods.

As the cost and damage mount, other leaders will be confronting the same calculation that Trump tackled openly in acknowledging that some people would “be affected badly” but “we have to get our country open.” What level of coronavirus deaths are Americans and citizens of other nations willing to tolerate to return to some sort of normality?

— Anthony Halpin


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