A lifeguard informs the public about the restrictions during the official reopening of beaches to the public in Athens on Saturday. AFP
Germany's Bundesliga became the first major European football league to return from coronavirus lockdown, playing in empty stadiums as leisure-seekers across the continent flocked to newly reopened beaches.
The reopenings are a tentative step towards a return to normality in some of the countries worst affected by the pandemic, which has killed more than 307,000 people, infected over 4.5 million, wrought vast economic havoc and brought life to a halt.
There are also signs that countries are relaxing border controls imposed months ago to stop the spread of COVID-19.
A man and his daughter splash in the ocean at Revere Beach during the coronavirus pandemic. AP
Italy, for a long stretch the world's worst-hit country, announced on Saturday that EU tourists will be allowed to visit from June 3 and a 14-day mandatory quarantine period will be scrapped.
But as governments lift restrictions to boost their stagnant economies, there have been widespread fears of a second wave of infections that could plunge the world back into lockdown.
A man wearing a face mask disinfects a sunbed during the official reopening of beaches to the public in Athens. AFP
Such fears have delayed the return of team sport, and on Saturday all eyes were on the Bundesliga's opening games, which were played to vacant, echoing stadiums.
'World looking to Germany'
"It's sad that matches are played in empty stadiums, but it's better than nothing — the more we keep to health rules, the sooner we can return to normality," said 45-year-old Borussia Dortmund fan Marco Perz, with a beer in hand as he prepared to watch the game on TV.
Dortmund's profilic striker Erling Braut Haaland was the first goal-scorer after the two-month shutdown, helping his team thrash rivals Schalke 4-0.
People enjoy a sunny day on a beach during the official reopening of beaches to the public in Athens. AFP
He celebrated the goal by dancing alone —making no contact with team-mates, who clapped him on – to comply with the strict hygiene guidelines which allowed the league to return.
"The whole world will be looking at Germany, to see how we get it done," said Hansi Flick, the boss of league-leaders Bayern Munich.
Russia has announced its own football league will return next month and has pushed ahead with plans to lift restrictions despite recording its highest daily death toll on Saturday, with 119 fatalities.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the government would seek to extend the country's state of emergency for "about a month," until the transition out of lockdown is completed.
Mainz' Cameroonian midfielder Kunde Malong and Cologne's Colombian forward Jhon Cordoba vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match. AFP
In France, the first weekend after the most strict measures were lifted saw many venture out into the spring sunshine — and hit the beach.
In the French Riviera city of Nice, keen swimmers jumped into the surf before 8am (0600 GMT).
"We are like drug addicts — we were impatient because we swim here all year round," said retiree Gilles.
Here comes the sun
With the northern hemisphere's summer fast approaching, governments are moving to help their key tourism industries salvage something from the wreckage.
Parasols and sunloungers have popped up on coastlines in Italy and Greece, which opened its beaches on Saturday.
Swimmers enjoy the sea at an open to the public beach, at Alimos suburb, near Athens. AP
Pedri Alatras, a worker at the Kavouri beach near Athens, said disinfecting lounge chairs after each customer was a burden.
"I also have to wear gloves when it's almost 40˚C, it's exhausting but we have to respect the measures," he said on Saturday, when temperatures hit 38˚C.
The sun sparked alarm in parts of England, with officials warning people to stay away from newly reopened beauty spots due to fears of overcrowding.
Malls reopened in the Philippines' capital Manila but saw only a trickle of customers, while in Vietnam, hundreds queued for tourist boats at the newly reopened UNESCO heritage site of Ha Long Bay.
More than 8.53 million people have been reported infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 453,834 have died, a Reuters tally showed as of 1326 GMT on Friday.
Like millions of other Britons, the prime minister will be able to have a trim and a tipple on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of coronavirus lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and church.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland told people they should still stay at home. Johnson's government has been accused by the opposition Labour Party of responding too slowly and late to an outbreak that has now produced the world's second highest death toll - something the government denies.
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Criticising the opposition, the prime minister reiterated that he would not give any National Reconciliation Ordinance-like concession to the opposition leaders no matter how many rallies they staged.