Lockdown LIFTED: Millions of Europeans return to work as shops reopen
Several European countries including Italy, Spain and Denmark have outlined plans to reduce restrictions as the continent at the epicentre of the coronavirus crisis attempts to restart life once again. The Spanish Government has today let thousands of workers who cannot do their jobs remotely go back to work – despite the death toll in the country remaining worryingly high.
Firms in construction and manufacturing are among the first to be sent back out to work by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, since the lockdown was imposed on March 17.
Officials were seen this morning handing out protective face masks to commuters on the train, hours before it was confirmed the number of coronavirus deaths had increased by 517 to 17,489.
The single-day death toll figure was the second lowest recorded for three weeks for Spain in a further sign to virus was beginning to slow down.
From Tuesday, Italy, the country most affected by coronavirus in Europe, will also begin to get moving again.
The Italian Government has permitted bookshops, children’s clothes stores and launderettes to re-open for the first time since March 9.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “This is a difficult but necessary decision for which I take all political responsibility.”
Coronavirus has devastated large parts of the country with almost 20,000 COVID-19 related deaths.
Over recent weeks there has been a significant fall in the number of casualties.
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On Saturday health authorities confirmed there has been 431 deaths – the lowest figure for 19 days.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss lifting restriction during a meeting with officials from across 16 states this afternoon.
The largest economy in the EU has conducted a vigorous mass testing regime and its early detection has limited the number COVID-19 fatalities to just over 3,000.
The decision to lift sanctions will help to ease Germany’s export-driven economy which been hit hard and is estimated to contract by almost 10 percent in the second quarter – the biggest decline since records began in 1970.
Elsewhere on the continent, Denmark, one of the first European countries to shut down, will reopen day care centres and schools on April 15.
All other curbs including a ban on gathering of more than 10 people and closure of cafes, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers will continue to apply until at least May 10.
Austria plans to let non-essential shops of up to 400 square metres as well as all DIY shops and garden centres reopen on Tuesday.
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Shopping malls, hairdressers and larger stores are set to reopen from May 1.
On Friday, the Irish Government extended its current restrictions for another three weeks, until May 5.
In a video message Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned the virus is expected to peak later in the month as the number of coronavirus deaths reached 334.
In the UK a review on the current three-week lockdown period is set to take place on Thursday.
Ministers have insisted they want to be sure there is enough evidence to show UK is past the peak of the virus.
On Friday the World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged caution against rushing any decision on ending the lockdown.
Dr Ghebreyesus acknowledged there had been a “welcome slowing” of the virus in Europe but warned “lifting restrictions could lead to a deadly resurgence”.
Around the world more than 1.8 million people have been infected by coronavirus and more than 113,000 have died.
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