Monday 11 May 2020 2:30 pm

Coronavirus lockdowns: Which countries have relaxed social distancing measures?

European countries are slowly lifting their coronavirus lockdown measures as hospital numbers and death tolls stabilise. 

The Prime Minister last night outlined a “roadmap” for easing lockdown. He announced a new coronavirus alert system with five levels that influence how quickly lockdown could be eased.

We look at how other countries have started to ease restrictions – and what the UK can learn as it plans its own exit. 

Read more: UK house prices: Experts predict sharp recovery after coronavirus lockdown

Italy lockdown

Italy has been one of the worst hit countries in Europe with nearly 220,000 cases and nearly 30,560 deaths. However, the number of deaths has fallen to its lowest since 10 March. The number of people in intensive care has also dropped.

Italy brought in a limited easing of its coronavirus lockdown on 14 April, allowing some small shops to reopen. 

Listen to our daily City View podcast as we chart the economic fallout and business impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

From 4 May, the country relaxed measures after nearly two months of strict lockdown. People are now allowed to move around their own regions, and face masks will be required on all public transport. 

Restaurants have also reopened for takeaway services. They are expected to reopen to diners from 1 June, along with hairdressers, salons and bars. Schools are not expected to open until September. 

Social distancing measures will continue and places of worship remain closed for religious ceremonies, despite some backlash from the Catholic Church. Funerals are set to resume from 4 May, with a maximum of 15 attendees. 

Read more: Boris Johnson promises no post-coronavirus austerity

France lockdown

France set out plans for a phased ending of its coronavirus lockdown beginning on 11 May.

Prime Minister Eduoard Philippe said regions would be labelled red or green on 7 May for the proposed easing of restrictions four days later. The decision will be based on the number of new cases, as well as capacity in hospitals and for testing.  

As in Italy, it will be compulsory to wear masks on all public transport, in taxis and on school buses. Face masks will also be compulsory for all staff and customers when shops are allowed to reopen from 11 May.

Bars, restaurants and cafes will remain closed. Instead the government has promised to make a decision by the end of May as to whether they can reopen after 2 June. 

Creches, nurses and primary schools are also set to open as France eases lockdown. Secondary schools will be able to reopen a week later in regions where the virus circulation is low. The PM said he will make a decision on colleges by the end of May, as well as a decision on restaurants, bars and nightclubs. 

Stricter coronavirus lockdown restrictions will continue for those over-65 even after 11 May. 

The government’s main aim is to limit large gatherings of people. No events with more than 5,000 participants will be held before September. Last week, France ended its football league season early, handing Paris Saint-Germain the Ligue 1 title. 

Like the UK, testing remains an issue with an insufficient number of tests making contact tracing difficult. Philippe said last week the aim is to carry out at least 700,000 tests per week by 11 May. 

Read more: Italy to ease lockdown measures as coronavirus infections drop

Spain lockdown

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez said the “new normality” will take place over four stages. 

From 4 May, lockdown measures started to ease on the smaller Spanish islands. Some local shops have been allowed to reopen, while restaurants and bars have opened for takeaway services. 

Mainland Spain will enter the first phase of transition from 11 May, but the government has said decisions will be based on local circumstances. Shops and markets can reopen with social distancing measures still in place. 

Restaurants will be allowed to open outside terraces as long as no more than 30 per cent of places are occupied. Similarly, places of worship can open with reduced capacity in an eased coronavirus lockdown. 

By the end of May, restaurants could be allowed to open up indoor dining areas, with reduced capacity. Cinemas, theatres and exhibitions will follow suit. 

Come mid-June, large shopping centres, bars and nightclubs are set to reopen albeit with 30 per cent capacity. 

Listen to our daily City View podcast as we chart the economic fallout and business impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany lockdown

Germany began easing its coronavirus lockdown measures last month, as smaller shops reopened with strict social distancing measures in place. Face masks are mandatory on public transport. 

Schools started to reopen for exam year students last week, with pupils attending in groups on alternating days or weeks. 

Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel gave playgrounds, museums, zoos and places of worship the green light to reopen.  However, she warned that there was risk of triggering a second wave if people did not adhere to social distancing measures. 

The country has now seen a rise in the reproduction rate to above 1, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

The prospect of a return to normality has been made possible by widespread testing, with a fall in the number of infections to just under 1,500 a day. 

US lockdown

The US has been the worst hit by the coronavirus, with over a million cases and 79,000 deaths. However, its federal system makes a centralised easing of lockdown incredibly difficult.

Parts of the US are starting to open up again, with hairdressers, tattoo shops and gyms being allowed to open in Georgia.

Around 30 states are lifting restrictions even though some have not met the guidelines which recommend proof of a two week decline in number of new cases and deaths. Some states led by Republican governors have sought to move more quickly.

Documents obtained by the New York Times show that the country could see up to 3,000 deaths per day by June 1 as it pushes to reopen the economy.

South Korea lockdown

A new cluster of coronavirus cases in Seoul has led to the reinstatement of social distancing measures amid fears of a new wave of cases in South Korea.

The country had received international praise for mass testing, contact tracing and social distancing to combat the outbreak. Officials attributed the new wave of cases to at least oner person who visited clubs and bars in a popular nightlife district in Seoul.

Health officials reported 34 new cases on Sunday, a sharp rise from the past week when South Korea reported several days of no local infections.

What will life post-lockdown look like in the UK? 

The UK will follow other European countries by easing measures in phases. There has already been some opening up of business again, with construction workers returning to construction sites albeit with the enforcement of social distancing. 

The PM encouraged people to return to work who cannot work from home, in an address to the nation on Sunday. He outlined a conditional plan for the easing of lockdown measures, based on a five level alert system. Level five is the most critical, and the UK is ready to move from level four to three, according to the PM.

The government has said there is now no limit on exercise, and from Wednesday it will be possible to drive to other destinations and play sports with members of your household. Individual sports such as golf and fishing are also now allowed. 

Stage two will include a phased reopening of shops no earlier than 1 June. The third stage will be from 1 July and will see some of the hospitality industry opening up again.

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