Yesterday, Austria and Denmark became the first nations in Europe to announce plans to begin easing coronavirus restrictions, and reopen societies hoping that they have beat the first wave of the virus.
Belgium, France, Spain are reported to be considering a similar move in loosening some restrictions to public life though European leaders are cautious because some countries that had sought to return to normal too early, such as Singapore and Japan, have seen waves of new infections.
Both Austria and Denmark plan to lift restrictions in stages. In Austria, small shops are slated to reopen April 14, with larger stores to follow on May 1. Restaurants, hotels and schools may be able to reopen in mid-May – though that decision will be assessed at the end of April. Strict rules about masks, social distancing and the number of people allowed into a store at any one time will remain in place, but public events may resume in July.
In Denmark, the plan is for nursery and primary schools to reopen April 15, while companies will resume business gradually.
Austria early response has seen the Nation deal with the pandemic more efficiently compared to other nations that have seen their health care systems overwhelmed by the numbers of those seeking treatment for COVID-19.
In total Austria has had 12,399 confirmed cases and 243 people died. But for the last three days, the number of recoveries have exceeded the number of new infections. On Monday, Austrian authorities reported 241 new infections and 465 recoveries over the previous 24 hours.
While some social distancing restrictions will be relaxed in Denmark, people would still be expected to wear masks in public places. Travels into and out of the country will remain banned and gatherings of more than 10 people also stay banned.
Currently more than one third of the world population is under some kind of lockdown, stay at home order or social distancing regulations in a bid to stop further spread of the coronavirus.