Europe to mark WWII anniversary despite virus crisis

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PARIS:    A continent devastated by the coronavirus will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on Friday, as the economic destruction of the current global crisis was laid bare.
Large-scale parades that had been envisaged to commemorate victory over the Nazis have been downsized as the world grapples with a fearsome new enemy that has killed 277,000 people and sickened more than 3.7 million.
While parts of Europe appeared to be over the hump of new infections, the United States´ death toll showed no signs of slowing, and Brazil warned of chaos with the pandemic running out of control.
“Within about 30 days, there may start to be shortages on shelves and production may become disorganised, leading to a system of economic collapse, of social disorder,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said.
Brazil is Latin America´s worst-affected nation, with more than 135,000 infections and 9,100 confirmed deaths, although experts say the true figures are far higher.
But far-right President Jair Bolsonaro opposes stay-at-home measures to slow the spread, saying they are unnecessarily damaging the economy.
US President Donald Trump is also pushing for lockdowns to be lifted, as he tries to steady the economy ahead of November polls.
“This country can´t stay closed and locked down for years,” he said Thursday, as the US death toll topped 75,500.
Another 3.2 million people filed unemployment claims in the United States last week, bringing the total who have lost their jobs in the lockdown to 33.5 million.
Germany and France on Thursday reported major slumps in industrial production and Britain said its economic output would plummet by 14 percent this year.
Across Europe, many countries are now easing restrictions, with some shops and schools re-opening, Italy allowing Catholics to soon attend mass, and Norway to open up pubs on June 1.
Britain was on Thursday reviewing lockdown measures, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to offer a roadmap on Sunday.
The easing has already begun in Germany, while France is due on Monday to start emerging from its lockdown, though Paris will remain restricted.
Wreaths
Despite limitations, some ceremonies were to go ahead Friday in commemoration of the end of hostilities in World War II.
The anniversary of Nazi Germany´s 1945 unconditional surrender after a war that cost 50 million lives is a holiday in Berlin this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier are due to lay wreaths at the country´s main memorial.
Ceremonies across France have been drastically scaled down, although President Emmanuel Macron will still be attending an event on the Champs-Elysees.
In Britain, street parades by veterans have been cancelled.
Russia had originally planned a huge military display on its May 9 Victory Day, but now only a flypast will take place over Red Square.
President Vladimir Putin will lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial, before making a TV address that will not only touch on the war, but is also expected to chart out the country´s next steps in battling the virus.
Most of Europe has seen significant drops in new infections, but cases are on the rise in Russia, with another 11,000 reported Thursday.
Moscow´s lockdown has been extended until May 31.