UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: The European countries beginning to lift lockdown measures

By April 18, 2020 No Comments

The leaders of Norway, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria have announced plans to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Schools and day care centres are set to reopen in Denmark on 15 April in what will be the first steps the country is taking to ease its quarantine rules, while Norway will do so five days later.

Denmark went into lockdown, closing schools, day centres, restaurants, cafes, gyms and borders, on 11 March, making it one of the first European countries to enter quarantine.

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced measures to lift part of her country's lockdown
Image:Denmark’s PM Mette Frederiksen has announced measures to lift part of her country’s lockdown

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen made the announcement with caution, saying: “This will probably be a bit like walking the tightrope. If we stand still along the way we could fall and if we go too fast it can go wrong. Therefore, we must take one cautious step at a time.”

“If we open Denmark too quickly again we risk that infections rise too sharply and then we have to close down again,” Ms Frederiksen added.

A group of dozen police officers were seen waiting at the bank of the Dnipro river to detain the man who will have to pay a fine
Police detain swimmer for breaking lockdown

Other restrictions, including the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, will remain in place until at least 10 May, and larger gatherings will not be permitted until August.

Denmark has reported 187 coronavirus-related deaths and total of 4,681 infected out of a population of 5.6 million.

The number of people dying each day slowed to seven on Sunday, down from 14 on Saturday and 18 on Friday, with the number of people being admitted to hospital also falling.

Norway will also end its ban on families travelling to their holiday cottages – which are hugely common in the country – on 20 April, when hairdressers and other businesses closed due to the outbreak have been told they too will be allowed to reopen.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced the move in a news conference after a recent decline in the number of infections, saying: “We now have control of the virus, so we can open up the community little by little. We will do it together, controlled and over time.”

Norway and Denmark’s announcement came shortly after Austria announced it was aiming for a “resurrection” the day after Easter.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, pictured in parliament, has said easing restrictions may need to be reversed
Image:Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, pictured in parliament, has said easing restrictions may need to be reversed

Austria, which shares a border with hard-hit Italy, will look to reopen some shops but widen the requirement to wear face masks from 14 April.

Speaking in Vienna, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz cautioned that an “emergency brake” might be needed if the number of people with the virus accelerates again.

He said small shops, hardware stores and garden centres, would be greenlit to open but with limited numbers of people allowed inside and all must wear face masks. Larger stores will follow on 1 May.

Professor Chris Whitty said we need to be confident we're at the peak before relaxing restrictions.
Lockdown until we know peak is over – Whitty

Restaurants, hotels and schools could reopen in mid-May, depending on the infection and death figures in Austria, which entered lockdown on 16 March.

Wearing a mask will also become mandatory on public transport, as it is in supermarkets in the country at the moment.

Mr Kurz said the next week “will be decisive in whether the resurrection after Easter that we all want can take place.”

On Monday, Austria has seen 220 people die and 12,297 cases of coronavirus in a population of 8.9 million people.

In the Czech Republic, which declared a state of emergency on 12 March and shut borders four days later, is looking to re-open more stores from Thursday.

People wearing face masks walk in Prague
Image:People wearing face masks walk in Prague

Currently, supermarkets, pharmacies and garden stores are allowed to operate. This will be expanded to include shops selling construction materials, hobby supplies and bicycles, according to their minister for industry and trade.

All stores will be required to have disinfectant and disposable gloves at the entrance for customers, as well as ensuring social distancing rules are adhered to.

More stores may be opened after Easter and the Czech government approved a proposal Monday to ease its ban on citizens traveling abroad, enabling people to travel abroad for business, to see family, or for medical reasons. Anyone returning to the country will have to observe a two week isolation.

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The Czech Republic has seen 78 people die and 4,822 cases among its 10.7 million population.

Countries such as Singapore and Japan pose as cautionary examples to the European leaders considering lifting restrictions.

Both Asian countries have seen waves of new infections after easing lockdown measures, with Japan announcing a month-long state of emergency Tuesday for Tokyo and six other regions. Singapore has begun a month-long partial lockdown.

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