France said Thursday it would reopen its famed bars and restaurants -- with restrictions -- following months of coronavirus closures, as countries elsewhere reimposed distancing measures amid an uptick in cases.
The new measures in France followed news that the Premier League season would restart on June 17, as countries across Europe inch out of lockdowns toward a new post-pandemic reality.
But in South Korea and Sri Lanka, restrictions were introduced after a spate of fresh infections sparked fears of a second wave of contagion.
And global infections and deaths continued to climb. Deaths in Europe topped 175,000, while the United States passed the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths on Wednesday.
More than 355,000 have now died from the disease globally, and recorded infections have raced past 5.7 million since the disease first emerged in China late last year.
The picture remained grim in Latin America, now fully in the throes of the pandemic, with deaths in Brazil topping 25,000 Wednesday, while Peru logged a record 6,154 new cases in 24 hours.
Worried relatives gathered outside the Sabogal Hospital in the capital Lima unable to enter to see loved ones suffering from COVID-19 -- some begged guards for information.
"I want to talk to a doctor and they don't let me know," said Liset Villanueva, granddaughter of a coronavirus patient.
"They don't say anything, they don't call, they don't explain anything... What is he suffering from?"
- 'Freedom is the rule' -
But across the Atlantic, France crept toward a new normal after weeks of lockdown that has seen new infections and deaths drop.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe unveiled phase two of the country's deconfinement measures Thursday, which included the reopening of bars, cafes and restaurants along with museums and monuments on June 2.
But there will be restrictions: Paris eateries are only allowed to serve on outdoor terraces, and face masks will be mandatory in museums.
Citizens will also be allowed to travel more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from their homes, just in time for the summer holidays.
"Freedom will be the rule and restriction the exception," Philippe said.
There were signs of life returning to the sporting world too, with the Premier League saying Thursday it would come back on June 17 after a three-month pause.
But matches would be played behind closed doors, spectator-free.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spaniards were revisiting old joys -- but with new social distancing measures.
At a drive-in cinema in Madrid, crowds were delighted to finally be able to go to the movies again, while avoiding crowded theatres.
"Everyone has their own private space, there aren't many surfaces where you could pick up infection because during the film, no one gets out of their car and if you want to order food you can do that online," Belen Perez told AFP at a screening of "Grease".
"It's a great way of being entertained safely."
- 'Don't start leapfrogging' -
The US marked a dire milestone on Wednesday, passing 100,000 deaths, sparking fresh warnings from health experts that the country should not rush to reopen its badly bruised economy, with tens of millions of American jobs wiped out in a matter of months.
Though the US has the highest number of deaths in the world, it is not the most affected in terms of fatalities per million inhabitants.
Belgium leads with 808 deaths per million inhabitants, followed by Spain with 580 and Britain's 552, according to AFP data compiled by official figures. The US has 303 deaths per million inhabitants.
US President Donald Trump, eyeing re-election later this year, has repeatedly said he is eager to get back to business and has urged states to lift lockdowns.
But top health adviser Anthony Fauci -- whose guidance has often clashed with Trump's -- once again called for caution.
"Don't start leapfrogging over the recommendations of some of the guidelines because that's really tempting fate and asking for trouble," Fauci told CNN.
Elsewhere, some countries in Asia grappled with the risks of a second wave.
South Korea reimposed some social distancing rules after a series of new clusters emerged, many in the capital Seoul.
Museums, parks and art galleries will all be closed again from Friday for two weeks, while companies were urged to reintroduce flexible working, among other measures.
"The next two weeks are crucial to prevent the spread of the infection in the metropolitan area," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.
And in Sri Lanka, some lockdown measures will be rolled out again after more than 250 returnees from Kuwait were found to be infected with coronavirus.
- Aviation and auto hit -
Governments around the globe are faced with the precarious task of keeping populations safe while trying to kickstart their economies, with the world facing a global slump not seen in decades.
The economic fallout from the pandemic was again laid bare on Thursday as British carrier EasyJet said it would axe up to 30 percent of its staff, while Scandinavian airline SAS announced fresh quarterly losses of $362 million.
On the auto front, Nissan reported an eye-watering $6.2-billion annual net loss, and said it was closing its Barcelona plant and slashing production.
The news comes after the European Union unveiled a historic, 750-billion-euro ($825 billion) recovery plan to get the continent back on its feet.
Amid a deluge of dire news, there were some promising developments as well.
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche joined forces with US biotech firm Gilead to test a mix of drugs to treat severe cases of COVID-19.
Scientists around the world are racing for a vaccine -- or effective treatment -- for the disease.
And in the animal world, there was coronavirus news too, after a Bali zoo named a newborn giraffe after the disease.
"Corona is healthy and is still breastfeeding. We'll keep her under observation for three months," said zoo spokesman Anak Agung Ngurah Alit Sujana.
But visitors will have to wait to meet the young calf, as the zoo remains closed to the public.