PARIS: Slowly but surely, several countries are starting to plan for a gradual end to the lockdowns imposed to try and stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is an overview:
The central Chinese province of Hubei, with the exception of its capital Wuhan, started lifting restrictions on people’s movements on Mar 25, under conditions.
Wuhan, which led the world with an unprecedented quarantine lockdown in January, the month after the novel coronavirus first broke out there, finally lifted it on Apr 8.
City authorities have since put 70 of its residential neighbourhoods out of 7,000 back into quarantine after so-called “asymptomatic” people were detected there.
Hubei citizens have to show a green “health code” on their phone, meaning they are considered healthy and can travel.
The Czech government on Tuesday(Apr 14) introduced a five-stage plan to ease its virus lockdown measures, starting on Apr 20 and ending Jun 8.
First in line to reopen will be open-air markets and crafts and trades with workshops.
As of Tuesday, Czechs are also free to travel abroad on business or to visit relatives on condition they undergo a two-week quarantine upon return.
Austria on Tuesday allowed small shops to reopen, with larger shops to follow in early May and restaurants in mid-May.
Only essential travel is permitted until the end of April and restrictions in schools and universities and on cultural events or public gatherings will last longer.
In Italy, confined nationwide since Mar 10, some businesses, like bookshops and laundrettes, were allowed to reopen on Tuesday in some regions.
In Spain, where a Mar 14 lockdown will last at least until Apr 25, building and factory workers were allowed to go back to work on Tuesday, with the government distributing to them 10 million masks.
Since Mar 30, all non-essential economic activities have been halted. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday “de-escalation” of lockdown measures “will start at the earliest in two weeks and will be very gradual and very prudent”.
Denmark will on Wednesday reopen its kindergartens and primary schools, with secondary schools to follow on May 10.
Other restrictions closing borders, bars, restaurants, shopping centres, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and limiting foreign travel will remain in place, in some cases for months, the government has warned.
France will start partially ending its confinement on May 11, with the gradual reopening of schools.
Universities, bars, restaurants and cinemas will remain closed, as will France’s borders with non- European countries. Elderly and vulnerable people have been urged to remain at home.
Norway plans to progressively ease its restrictions from Apr 20, starting by reopening kindergartens and lifting a ban on living in holiday homes.
Some specialist health professionals will be allowed to go back to work. From Apr 27, high schools and universities will be partially reopened as will hair, massage and beauty salons.
Other confinement measures however will continue.
In Portugal, which has been living under a state of emergency since March 19, the authorities are hoping for a gradual return to normal in May.
President Donald Trump has claimed to have “absolute” power to force state governors and big-city mayors to lift quarantine and distancing policies, but constitutional experts dispute his claim.
In reality, lockdown measures are likely to be lifted on a state-by-state basis, with several states warning the process will be a slow one to avoid a second outbreak.
The German government is expected to announce on Wednesday an easing of obligatory measures, which vary from one region to another.
Under the measures, sports stadiums and concert halls will remain shut for several months.
Greece said on April 6 it hopes to be able to lift some COVID-19 restrictions in May, if the public respects the current lockdown until then.
The Swiss authorities are due to announce on Thursday the first easing of measures by the end of April.