Europe begins to ease Covid-19 restrictions

15 April, 2020

By ECCT staff writers

The European Commission, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, has announced a European roadmap to phase-out the containment measures due to the coronavirus outbreak.


In the meantime, several European countries have already started to ease dramatic lock-down restrictions imposed just a few weeks ago.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans to gradually ease restrictions put in place to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. According to a BBC news report, Germany will keep social distancing rules in place until at least 3 May, while Merkel also recommended the use of face masks in shops and on public transport. However, starting from next week, certain small shops would be able to open their doors. In addition, Germany will begin gradually re-opening schools from 4 May.


Germany’s move follows a decision by the Italian government yesterday to allow shops selling books, stationery and clothes for babies and young children to reopen their doors but with strict rules on customer numbers and hygiene. However, certain areas hard hit by the virus will remain under lock-down in Italy.


Meanwhile, Denmark has said it intends to ease its lockdown faster than originally planned and has already opened schools for younger children. Spain has allowed some businesses to return to work and Poland will gradually lift restrictions on its economy from Sunday, probably starting with shops.


Austria was one of the first European countries to impose strict lockdown measures about a month ago but announced gradual lifting measures last week, based on what it believes is reliable evidence that authorities there have managed to flatten the curve of new infections. Austria has allowed shops of under 400 square metres in size to reopen, along with hardware stores and garden centres.


According to a press release on the EU’s official website, Europa, the necessary extraordinary measures taken by Member States and the EU have succeeded in slowing down the spread of the virus and saved thousands of lives, although these measures and the corresponding uncertainty have come at a dramatic cost to people, society and the economy, and cannot last indefinitely.


European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen was quoted in the press release as saying “Saving lives and protecting Europeans from the coronavirus is our number one priority. At the same time, it is time to look ahead and to focus on protecting livelihoods. Even though conditions in the member states still vary widely, all Europeans rightly ask themselves when and in what order the confinement measures can be lifted”.


While recognising the specificities of each country, the European roadmap stresses the need for caution and proper coordination among member states.


The next few weeks will show whether opening up has been done too soon. Countries such as Sweden, which never imposed lock-down restrictions, has been criticised for its approach given the fact that the country has had one of the highest death rates from the coronavirus in Europe. 

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