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A Virus Overwhelmed EU Cautiously Opens Up

Europeans are beginning to go out of doors after wks of confinement, hammered by a virus that overwhelmed some the world’s best healthcare systems and killed more than 120,000, looking find signs of normalcy.

Venturing out of a lockdown looks different in Berlin than it does in Madrid as each government sets its own rules and pace for letting the continent’s 500-M people gain freedom again.

Below is a look at some of the opening up measures being rolled out now, as follows:

FRANCE

France outlined a plan Tuesday to open up some shops, farmers’ markets, schools, nurseries and small museums starting 11 May only if the country can keep infections under control.

Restaurants, parks, major museums and other businesses that underpin the all-important tourism economy will stay shuttered until at least til 2 June. French people, currently confined close to home, will be allowed to travel starting 11 May, but only up to 100 kms (60 mi) away.

To ward off a 2nd wave of infections, France will conduct at least 700,000 virus tests a week. Everyone taking public transport, taxis or shared car services will be required to wear a mask. The French government is also working on a virus tracing app, which has raised privacy concerns.

Authorities say more than 23,000 people have died with the virus in French hospitals and nursing homes.

SPAIN

Spain’s 7 wk lockdown is 1 of the world’s strictest, and the Prime Minister unveil a blueprint for what his government calls “a transition plan to a new normal.”

Officials have warned the roll-back will be gradual, will occur at different paces across Spain and will err on the side of caution.

Everyone, including the elderly, will be able to leave their homes to play sports, do exercise or take a stroll starting Saturday. Children under 14 anni, who were kept inside for wks, are now allowed to go outside for 1 hr a day.

The return to work is expected to be staggered, avoiding rush hours on public transport by making shifts flexible.

A total of 23,822 deaths are attributed to the new coronavirus, with more than 210,000 people infected.

ITALY

Italy, hit earliest and hardest of any country in Europe, has already begun a gradual reopening, with some strategic industries such as car exporters allowed to resume production this wk.

Starting 4 May Italians will be able move around more freely within their regions, including in parks, which have been closed for weeks to ward off a virus that has killed at least 27,000.

Funerals will be allowed, but Catholic churches will still be barred from holding Mass where parishioners can attend.

On 18 May, retail shops and museums can reopen, and soccer clubs and other teams can restart training. Bars and restaurants, beauty salons and barber shops can reopen starting in June. Schools remain closed until September.

In Naples the pizza ovens are fired up, Pizzerias are open after 8 wks of lockdown for take out and home delivery.

GERMANY

Germany has lost 6,000 people to the virus but has managed to contain it better than other world powers. It began its 1st steps to ease restrictions on 20 April, allowing smaller shops to reopen while sticking to strict social-distancing measures and bans on large gatherings of people.

Everyone using public transport or shopping must wear a mask. Shops of up to 8,600 sqf were permitted to reopen, along with some other businesses like car dealers and bicycle shops.

German schools have been closed since mid-March and the government hopes to be able to reopen them step by step from 4 May, with the oldest students returning 1st. Hairdressers are also allowed to open then.

GREECE

Greece says it will ease lockdown measures over a 45-Day period, starting on 4 May with the reopening of small businesses and the end of a strict stay-at-home policy.

We will start with commercial businesses like hairdressers that do not draw crowds,” a government spokesman said Tuesday. Larger businesses, schools, some hotels and tourism properties will follow, but slowly.

Greece, a country with 11-M, has an elderly population and a fragile economy. It has escaped the worst of the coronavirus so far with with only 2,245 confirmed cases and 116 deaths as of 27 April, 1 of the lowest counts in the EU.

Officials say schools will reopen before Summer for children in the final year of schooling, with a rollout to follow for younger grades, but it is unclear whether all grades will physically return before the Summer break.

UK

Pubs, factories, souvenir shops and schools are among the many facilities still closed in the UK, which is behind other countries in Europe with regard to the coronavirus chaos.

With more than 21,000 coronavirus deaths recorded in UK hospitals, the government has been careful not to openly consider how to ease the most onerous lockdown measures, currently due to last at least until 7 May.

In an early sign of change the National Health Service (NHS) is starting to restore halted services to deal with the health emergency, starting with cancer care and mental health services.

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