European governments are moving towards the easing of Wuhan coronavirus lockdowns, media reports suggest. Many European countries, including Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, have begun working on their respective “exit plans” to restore normalcy as the spread of coronavirus in their countries slows down.
Governments across Europe are weighing how to restart their economies while keeping the spread of the disease low.
“The Spanish, French and Italian governments will outline detailed plans this week to ease their lockdowns, as Europe seeks an exit route from the economically devastating measures brought in to contain Covid-19,” The Financial Times reported on Sunday. “Leaders across the region are grappling with how to reopen their economies, which are facing the sharpest downturn in decades, while avoiding a dangerous resurgence of the virus,” the business daily added.
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out her road map to relax nationwide restrictions, allowing most shops to resume business, and gradually reopening schools and colleges. France and Spain should come up with similar announcements on Tuesday, the UK newspaper Guardian reported.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is sticking to the “Stay Home” message.
The country is “passing through the peak,” Johnson said earlier this week. Officials have shown signs that London is working on a way out of the shutdown once the virus is contained. “Johnson is set to flesh out more details soon of how the UK could start to ease coronavirus lockdown,” UK’s Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Tuesday covered EU-wide relaxing of coronavirus restrictions:
ITALY: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has decided that reopening society will come gradually in Italy, also hit hard by the pandemic. A series of restrictions will be lifted on May 4, allowing the country’s population of 60 million to once again be able to exercise outdoors and move around their own regions. More restrictions will be lifted on May 18 and June 1, in an attempt to gradually get the economy running again. (…)
SPAIN: For the first time in six weeks of complete lockdown, children were once again heard laughing on the streets of Spain on Sunday. However, strict rules are still in place for citizens in one of Europe’s worst-hit countries. They can only leave the house for a maximum of one hour between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and must remain within a 1-kilometer (about half a mile) radius of home. A maximum of three children per household are allowed out at one time, with only one parent. (…)
FRANCE: On Tuesday, the French government will present a plan to ease the lockdown to parliament, where it will be debated before it is put to a vote. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Twitter that the plan comprised six points: “Health (masks, tests, isolation), school, work, businesses, public transport and gatherings.” President Emmanuel Macron had already announced earlier this month that the government would start to ease the lockdown measures, in place since March 17, on May 11. Schools and kindergartens are set to restart gradually. Restaurants will remain closed until at least the end of May, and large gatherings have been banned until at least mid-July. (…)
AUSTRIA: Austria had introduced protective measures at an early stage; however, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had also instigated a return to some kind of normality early on. The countries sees itself as a trailblazer internationally. Meanwhile, a large number of shops have reopened. The next stage will follow at the beginning of May; mid-May is to see the reopening of restaurants, cafes and bars, with limited business hours. Daycare centers and schools have been permanently open for those children who cannot be looked after otherwise.
Despite the recent easing of measures, protesters in Berlin and other German cities rallied against commercial and social restrictions, which they regard as stringent and “unconstitutional.” On Saturday, police in Berlin broke up a demonstration of about 1,000 people, arresting around 100 for taking part in the unauthorized protest, a German newspaper reported.
The economic hardship created by the shutdown brought people in other European countries on the streets as well.
“Anti-government protests have broken out in several parts of Lebanon amid a crash in the local currency and a sharp increase in food prices,” Deutsche Welle reported. The media reported violent protests in the French capital, Paris.
Out of 3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, nearly 1.4 million happened in Europe. As of April 26, the Wuhan virus has claimed 116,279 lives across the continent. Italy has been the worst hit with close to 27,000 reported deaths.
The contagion, which first appeared in central China, has also taken a massive toll on Europe’s economy. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has gone into recession in the wake of the outbreak. Experts believe the country’s GDP will shrink by about 10 percent in the current quarter (April-June). They also expect the number of bankruptcies to surge soon, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung predicts. The economy, however, is expected to rebound once the infectious disease subsides. The German GDP is expected to expand by close to 6 percent next year.
Despite the human suffering and the economic devastation left behind by the Wuhan virus, European countries have failed to confront China for its role in the outbreak. The European Union watered down a recent report critical of China’s role after Beijing threatened to cut Europe’s medical supplies.
The EU “toned down part of a report about Chinese state-backed disinformation” on coronavirus as it “feared Beijing would retaliate by withholding medical supplies,” according to a report by the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post on Saturday.
EuroNews: ‘How European countries are planning to lift their lockdown measures’
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