Across mainland Europe almost every country is loosening lockdown restrictions and heading back to work, not because the threat from coronavirus has diminished but to do otherwise would invite the biggest economic disaster in 90 years.
Many leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, have warned of the threat of a second wave of infections, and her words have been echoed by health ministers in many other EU countries. In France, the public health chief, Jérome Salomon, said avoiding a second wave of infections remained the top priority.
However, the reality is that without a return to work, many EU member states, not just those with the most fragile economies, such as Italy, face economic and financial ruin on a scale not seen since the Great Depression 90 years ago.
So far, the loosening of lockdown has been boosted by declining infection rates and a fall in the number of deaths recorded on a daily basis, an encouragement to those who argue in favour of opening up national economies that have been so catastrophically impacted by the financial costs of collapsing revenues and expensive bailouts.
Whether a spike in new cases will invoke a second serious lockdown is the fundamental issue, but the question is weighted heavily in favour of returning the economy to work and dealing with the consequences.
Meanwhile, in Monaco on Wednesday no new cases were reported and a total of only 95 people have been infected since the start of the outbreak, 58 of whom have already recovered fully.
Deaths in Italy increased by 323 on Wednesday, compared to 382 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new infections stood at 2,086, broadly stable from 2,091 on Tuesday. However, Spain recorded an increase in cases to 4,771 new cases from 2,706 on Tuesday, and 453 new deaths, up from 301 the previous day.
In France, the figures are broadly encouraging, with just 509 new cases compared to a recorded 2,638 on Tuesday, but with deaths at 427 compared to 367 the previous day.
In the UK, death figures jumped after the Government decided to come clean about deaths in care homes, adding 4,000 to the death toll overnight. However, according to other, more reliable sources, the UK death toll could be as high as 40,000 plus. Officially, 4,076 new cases and 4,419 new deaths were reported in the UK on Wednesday. The UK has so far said it’s too early to contemplate an end to lockdown, but once again economic imperatives may change that decision.