Europe prepares for more lockdown easing as coronavirus hopes rise - GulfToday

Europe prepares for more lockdown easing as coronavirus hopes rise


A homeless man pushes a shopping cart carrying his belongings in an empty street in Madrid. AFP

Europe on Sunday prepared for a further cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions following signs the pandemic may be slowing, after Spaniards flocked to the streets to jog, cycle and rollerskate for the first time after 48 days of confinement.

More than 242,000 people have been killed and 3.4 million infected worldwide by the virus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown and pushed the global economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.


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With signs that the spread of the contagion has been brought under control, parts of Europe and the United States have begun to lift restrictions to try to inject life into economies crippled by weeks of closures and ease the pressure from populations wearying of captivity.

After a two-month lockdown in Italy -- with the second-highest number of virus deaths in the world -- people on Monday will be allowed to stroll in parks and visit relatives. Restaurants can open for takeaway and wholesale stores can resume business.

A military personnel carries the coffin of a person who died from the coronavirus in Seriate, Italy, on Saturday. AFP

And in Hungary, some stores and museums, outdoor spaces of restaurants and hotels, beaches and baths can reopen from Monday -- but restrictions will remain in the capital Budapest, which has recorded about 70 percent of the country's cases.

Germany will also continue its easing at the start of the week, with schools in some areas expected to reopen, while Slovenia and Poland will allow some businesses and public spaces to operate again.

An elderly COVID-19 patient is transferred to an ambulance from a hospital in Barcelona, Spain. Felipe Dana/AP

France has said it will partially lift its lockdown on May 11.

But with health experts warning the disease could hit hard once again, they are sticking to social distancing measures, the use of masks and more testing to try to track infections.

"We must maintain social distancing, maximum hygiene levels, and masks. We've done our bit to the best of our ability. From Monday, it's up to you," Italian emergency response official Domenico Arcuri said.

Staff prepare to load equipment into London Ambulance Service vehicles in the east car park at the ExCeL in London. AFP

Despite the lingering concerns, there was joy and relief in Spain on Saturday, where people were allowed to exercise and walk freely after the government eased seven weeks of strict lockdown in a country with one of the highest number of deaths at more than 25,000.

"After so many weeks in confinement I badly wanted to go out, run, see the world," said financial advisor Marcos Abeytua in Madrid. "Yesterday I was like a child on Christmas Eve."

Agence France-Presse

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