TOPLINEAs American politicians debate when it might be time to relax shutdown orders to boost the economy, some European, Middle Eastern and Asian countries have already begun to lift some measures implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus, employing varying strategies and rationales. Here are the countries beginning their return to normalcy:
A pharmacy worker hands out free face masks on April 14 in Bologna, Italy.
Photo by Max Cavallari/Getty Images
In Spain, factory and construction workers began returning to their jobs (and masks will be handed out at public transport stations) on Monday.
While in Italy, shops selling books, stationery and clothing for babies and children have reopened Tuesday in some areas, but stricken regions like Lombardy remain locked down.
Garden centers and DIY stores in Austria have reopened since Monday with strict social distancing measures still in place.
In Bulgaria, farmer’s markets have reopened.
Schoolchildren in Denmark are returning to in-person classes Wednesday.
Norway’s kindergartens are scheduled to be open for class April 20.
France is projected to begin its reopening process May 11, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, while pledging to have enough masks and tests in the country then.
In Iran, government offices reopened Sunday, along with businesses outside the capital city of Tehran, while businesses inside Tehran are scheduled to reopen on April 18.
China on April 8 lifted its lockdown in Wuhan, the city the coronavirus was first detected in, with citizens being allowed to leave the city by train, plane and highway after 76 days.
What to watch for
Easing of lockdown measures in the United States, the U.K., India and elsewhere. U.S. governors on the West and East Coasts have pledged to coordinate reopening plans, despite President Trump’s insistence that reopenings are his decision, setting up a possible federal versus states showdown. In the U.K., lockdown measures could stay in place for another month, while in India, the country’s lockdown of its 1.3 billion people was extended to May 3.
“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections. It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going to count,” Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, told the Associated Press Tuesday on the easing of restrictions.
While lockdowns have slowed the rate of infections, experts say additional measures are needed before a full return to everyday life. Mask wearing, antibody tests and cellphone apps are being considered by governments as options to ease the public back into daily life while minimizing the risk of new infections. Although Asian countries like South Korea were praised for rapidly scaling testing while keeping their total number of cases and deaths low, other territories like Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan are seeing an increase in cases brought in by travelers from the Middle East and Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Lockdowns in France and U.K. Expected to Last Into Next Month (New York Times)
First European Countries Prepare to Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Restrictions (Wall Street Journal)
Iran Begins Lifting Restrictions After Brief Virus Lockdown (PBS NewsHour)