Hundreds of millions of Christians, confined as half the world’s population, celebrate Easter this Sunday in unprecedented conditions, due to the coronavirus pandemic killed 110,000 people, hitting the United States hard and without giving Europe respite.
The death toll from COVID-19 doubled in just over a week and the United States has become the most affected country, with more than 530,000 infections and 20,600 deaths, according to an AFP count based on official sources.
In the empty St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis dedicated his Easter message this Sunday to “those who have been directly affected by the coronavirus, the sick, the deceased and families.”
In a world “overwhelmed by the pandemic, which is subjecting our great human family to a severe test,” the Argentine pontiff called for “the contagion of hope.”
In his broadcast message, he called on the internet to establish a “global and immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world”, emphasizing Yemen and Syria, but also Iraq, Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and urged to reduce or cancel the debt of the poorest countries.
Francisco proposed that “the international sanctions of the affected nations” be relaxed “and that the great needs of the moment be faced by all the countries, reducing, or even forgiving, the debt that weighs on the budgets of the poorest” .
– The Holy Sepulcher closed –
Deserted churches, ceremonies without the faithful, masses through the screens … In this Easter weekend, which commemorates the resurrection of Christ according to tradition, they have been seen with surprising images of the most famous places on the planet totally empty.
In Jerusalem, for the first time in more than a century, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is closed tight. A mass without the faithful was celebrated inside this Sunday morning.
In Italy, some faithful could not however endure confinement. In San Marco in Lamis, a town of 15,000 inhabitants in the southeast, 200 people participated in a prayer before the church, causing a wave of outrage and the mayor’s excuses.
In Nicaragua, the government also did not seem to mind the distancing measures to stop the spread of the virus, and promoted the celebration of Easter, despite the fact that the Church had suspended all festivities.
The country “lives in tranquility” and celebrates “the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who fought for justice,” said Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo.
But in New York State, which has suffered more than 8,600 deaths, things go differently.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s public schools would remain closed until the end of the school year.
Images taken with a drone showed dozens of rudimentary coffins being buried in a mass grave on Hart Island, “the island of the dead”, opposite the Bronx district and where homeless people have been buried since the 19th century.
In Europe, which exceeded the symbolic figure of 75,000 deaths on Sunday, the daily parts of each country with the fatalities continue to fall like buckets of cold water.
Italy brushes the tragic threshold of 20,000 deaths, and Spain returned on Sunday to announce an increase in daily deaths (619), after three consecutive days of declining balances, and bordering 17,000 deaths.
The figures also increased in France, with more than 13,800 deaths and in the United Kingdom, where in one day a thousand people died, including an 11-year-old boy, the balance is close to 10,000.
Despite these data, there has been a slight improvement in hospitals in several countries, reflecting that confinement is bearing fruit.
The Spanish health authorities wanted to breathe an optimistic note by assuring that there is an “evident process of slowing down the epidemic”, in the words of the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa.
Although strict confinement remains in place, non-essential activities such as industry and construction will resume on Monday after two weeks of shutdown.
– “Immediate solutions in Venezuela” –
In other regions of the world, isolation measures were beginning to apply, such as in Turkey, where confinement was imposed in 31 cities this weekend, including its economic capital, Istanbul, with 16 million people.
In Venezuela, where the virus has claimed the lives of at least nine people and infected 175, the state of alarm was extended for 30 days.
In his Easter message, the pope prayed for “practical and immediate solutions in Venezuela, aimed at facilitating international aid to the population suffering from the serious political, socioeconomic and health situation.”
Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for more than 61,000 infections on Sunday, with more than 2,500 deaths, according to the AFP balance.
Brazil is the country in the region most affected by the pandemic, with 1,100 decsos and almost 21,000 infections; followed by Ecuador, with 315 deaths from 7,200 cases.
On the African continent, where about 13,000 infections and some 700 deaths have been recorded, “the virus spreads beyond large cities,” warned the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the region, Matshidiso Moeti , who said he feared “a new front” of the pandemic.