COVID-19: European countries set further relax restrictions

COVID-19: European countries set further relax restrictions

Spain and Italy are trying to get rid of COVID-19 / Image=wikipedia

[Newsphopick=Gyubin Lee] Italy and Spain are among a number of European countries that are further easing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions from Monday. Most businesses in Italy, including bars and hairdressers, will be free to reopen after more than two months of nationwide lockdown measures. Spain is set to relax its restrictions in most of the country, with groups of up to 10 people free to meet.

The measures follow consistent drops in the number of daily recorded deaths. On Sunday, Italy recorded the fewest daily deaths since it entered lockdown in March. It said 145 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours. This marked a significant drop from its highest daily death toll, which was more than 900 on 27 March. 

In Spain, the daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since it imposed its lockdown restrictions. But officials are warning that complacency over the virus could lead to the second wave of infections. Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and shops will be allowed to reopen in Italy, providing social distancing is enforced. 

Almost 32,000 people in Italy have died in the pandemic, and the economy is expected to shrink by nearly 10% this year. Catholic churches are preparing for the resumption of Mass, but there will be strict social distancing, and worshippers must wear face masks. Other faiths will also be allowed to hold religious services. 

But health officials have warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings. Pope Francis held a private Mass at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, which has been disinfected ahead of its reopening to tourists. The Mass honored the late Pope John Paul II, 100 years after his birth in Poland. 

In Spain, a majority of people will have emerged from lockdown by the end of the week. The country has a four-phase system for reopening, which authorities are applying at different speeds in different regions. 

Most of Spain is now in phase one. As of Monday up to 10 people are allowed to meet together, provided they wear masks and social distance, while bars and restaurants can open outdoor seating at half capacity. Cinemas, museums, and theatres are also opening at reduced capacity. 

Barcelona, Madrid, and parts of the north-west, however, remain in phase 0. Most restrictions will remain in place, but some small shops will be allowed to reopen on Monday, and funerals can be held for groups of up to 10 inside and 15 outside. This has been dubbed "phase 0.5" - an intermediate step in these regions.

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