Egypt Independent

Coronavirus: How Europe plans to reopen



As COVID-19 vaccinations begin to accelerate across Europe, governments are making plans to reopen businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters and sports venues. Here’s a detailed look at the steps European countries are taking to return to normal.

Germany

Though new infections have dipped slightly, Germany has been struggling to contain a third wave of the virus, with the government criticized for a slow vaccine rollout. If average new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a seven-day period rise above 100 for three consecutive days, a city or district is expected to apply strict lockdown policies that apply nationwide.

Germany’s national seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents fell to 155 on Thursday, the lowest level in two weeks.

Most German states still have a seven-day incidence above 100, meaning restrictive policies will continue in most of the country for now. Only Schleswig-Holstein and the city-state of Hamburg are below 100.

According to the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper, Schleswig-Holstein’s government will allow tourists to visit the island of Sylt beginning in May if they present a negative coronavirus test. Sylt, in the North Sea, is a popular summer vacation destination for many Germans.

The country is also debating whether people who have been vaccinated should enjoy fewer coronavirus restrictions than nonvaccinated people.

France

France plans to loosen restrictive measures at the beginning of May, lifting domestic travel restrictions but maintaining an evening curfew. French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a three-week lockdown across France in April, closing nonessential businesses and schools.

During the April lockdown, residents of France cannot travel beyond 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from their homes without a valid reason. France is also under a 7 pm evening curfew.

Macron said Thursday he plans to allow most businesses to reopen on May 19 with restrictions. The nighttime curfew would also be pushed back from 7 pm to 9 pm.

“Starting May 19, we must rediscover our French way of life,” Macron told French regional newspapers. “Life in the nation can’t be reduced to the developments of infection curves.”

Macron has also previously signaled that France would be open to some vaccinated tourists this summer.

Italy

Restaurants, museums, bars, and movie theaters reopened in most of Italy on Monday. Residents are only allowed to eat at restaurants and bars outdoors for now, with indoor dining expected to return on June 1.

Spain

Spain intends to end its national state of emergency on May 9, ending restrictive measures across the country.

Spain also plans to open its doors for some tourists, with the Spanish government intending to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit the Mediterranean country in June.

Greece

Restaurants and cafes will reopen on May 3 for outdoor dining after Orthodox Easter, the Greek government has announced.

Greece also intends to open for some tourists on May 15.

UK

In most of the United Kingdom, shops, restaurants and bars have already reopened. On April 30, shops will reopen in Northern Ireland, with bars and restaurants allowed to resume service for outdoor dining only.

Poland

Poland will reopen hotels, restaurants and shopping malls in May, according to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Malls and furniture stores will reopen with restrictions on May 4, while restaurants will resume outdoor dining on May 15.

In late May, restaurants will be allowed to resume indoor dining at a limited capacity, with gyms and movie theaters also reopening at that time.

Students will go back to school on May 29.

Ireland

Ireland will reopen shops and personal services in May, with hotels, restaurants and bars to follow in early June. Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the Irish government will decide in late May on a phased return for international travel this summer.

Netherlands

The Netherlands lifted its curfew last week and is allowing cafes to serve customers outdoors. Dutch households are also permitted to have two outside guests now, with previous restrictions only allowing one visitor.

At the same time, museums, concert halls and sports venues are still closed down.

Belgium

Belgium is moving forward with a strategy to reopen outside dining for restaurants and bars on May 8. The restaurants will have a curfew of 10 p.m. and a maximum of four people would be allowed per table.

Shops and hair salons have been opened since Monday.

Austria

The Austrian government has announced that all shops and restaurants will be allowed to reopen starting from May 19, although certain limitations would be still in place. Leisure and cultural facilities will also reopen on that date.

Switzerland

Switzerland already began to reopen its economy in March. Most Swiss restaurants, cinemas and gyms have been open since mid-April, although indoor dining is still restricted.

Sports games and musical events have been allowed to resume, although the number of audience members is limited. Working from home is compulsory, with masks also required indoors in public areas.

Sweden

Sweden has never fully closed down its economy to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but the Scandinavian country has put some restrictions on businesses following criticism. Sweden has forced bars and restaurants to close early and limited the number of customers inside. Shops and gyms also remain open at a limited capacity.

Denmark

Denmark reopened bars, restaurants, cafes, museums and libraries last week, but coronavirus passports are required to enter. Denmark has taken a different approach to the virus than Sweden, closing most non-essential businesses in December as hospitalizations rose.

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By Wesley Dockery

IMAGE: Guests sit outside a cafe in the western German state of Saarland, which partially reopened in early April. AFP/Getty Images/Jean-Christoph Verhaegen