Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under Covid-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are strict rules about who is allowed out, where, and under limited circumstances.
Tuesday May 12, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
WHY HAS NEW ZEALAND MANAGED TO DO SO WELL?
I was on the phone to Jake, my stepson, down in New Zealand on Sunday evening – it was Monday morning there. He’s picking kiwi fruit for the past week since he was able to move freely as part of the lifting of coronavirus restrictions there.
The government there is leading the world in opening up – which is easier I guess because it’s so isolated from everywhere else.
Now, it turns out New Zealand will phase out its coronavirus lockdown over the next 10 days after successfully containing the virus, although some restrictions will remain, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday.
Ardern said that from Thursday shopping centres, restaurants, cinemas and playgrounds will reopen – with the country moving to Level Two on its four-tier system.
The 39-year-old leader warned “none of us can assume Covid is not with us” but said New Zealand currently had only 90 active cases after a seven-week lockdown.
“Your efforts New Zealand have got us to this place ahead of most of the world and without the carnage that Covid has inflicted in many other places,” she said in a televised address.
“But there are risks ahead, so please be vigilant.”
New Zealand, with a population of five million has recorded 1,147 coronavirus cases, including 21 deaths.
The number of new cases has been in single digits since mid-April, with three new infections recorded today.
Under Level Two restrictions, international borders remain closed, but life domestically will return to something approaching normality.
While social distancing must still be followed, the advice that people isolate themselves at home and “stick to your bubble” will no longer apply.
“This is a transition out of our bubbles, you can see people you haven’t seen in a while, you just can’t do it all at once,” Ardern said.
“At Level Two we are out and about again, just about all parts of the economy are opening up again.”
GREATEST RELAXATION YET
The lockdown was first eased two weeks ago, allowing food takeaways and resumption of some recreational activities, but the freedoms granted by the latest relaxation will be far greater.
Those aged over 70 will be allowed out again after more than seven weeks of mandatory quarantine.
Domestic travel will be allowed, providing a boost to the crippled tourism industry and schools will fully reopen next Monday.
Bars will not be back in business until 21 May, giving them extra time to ensure they can keep patrons properly separated.
Team sport will also return, with planning already underway to start a domestic version of Super Rugby on 13 June involving the competition’s five New Zealand-based teams.
Ardern said the move to Level Two would be reassessed after two weeks, with further easing possible depending on developments.
That’s welcome news. Then I got to wondering exactly what the state of play is across Europe.
Here’s a list I put together on Monday, a day when many restrictions are ending across the continent. But it does vary from place to place. I hope you find it interesting….
HOW THE NATIONS OF EUROPE ARE TACKING CORONAVIRUS
The tiny landlocked nation wedged between France and Spain has adopted a unique system in fighting COVID-19. Those who live in even-numbered homes are allowed to go out on even dates, while those who reside in odd-numbered homes on all other days.
Those who live in even-numbered homes are allowed to go out on even dates, while those who reside in odd-numbered homes on all other days. Houses without a number will go out on even dates if the name of occupants begins with A-M, and odd days if it starts with N-Z.
The easing of the lockdown began at the end of April and was for people to leave their homes for an hour to exercise. As well as an orderly system for allowing citizens out of their homes, they also have to respect strict time slots for various activities.
Running or walking fast can take place between 6 am and 9 am or from 6 pm to 9 pm. Andorrans can shop or stroll between 9 am and 11 am or between 2 pm and 7 pm. The time between 11 am and 2 pm is reserved for vulnerable and elderly populations to get out of the house.
When they leave the house, Andorrans must stay a distance of four metres from others and wear face masks. Citizens are advised to walk on the right-hand side in the same direction as vehicles to ensure that they keep a distance from others.
Austria started easing its lockdown measures on May 1, but people not living together must keep a one-metre distance between each other in public at all times. Restaurants will reopen from May 15, followed by hotels from May 29.
Austria’s first loosening of its coronavirus lockdown almost four ago, in which thousands of shops reopened, has not led to a new spike in infections, though further vigilance is necessary, its health minister said
The Alpine republic acted early to tackle the viral pandemic, closing bars, restaurants, schools, theatres, non-essential shops and other gathering places seven weeks ago. That helped cut the daily increase in infections to less than 1 per cent and keep deaths relatively low.
Buoyed by those numbers, on April 14 Austria became one of the first countries in Europe to loosen its lockdown, reopening DIY and garden centres as well as shops of up to 400 square metres - twice the playing area of a singles tennis court.
The health minister said good contagion figures justified the decision, but he appealed to people’s individual responsibility in the coming months.
The country is one of the first in Europe to reopen its economy with some shops were allowed to reopen after Easter. The Alpine nation was also one of the first in Europe to adopt strict lockdown measures.
Belgium began a cautious easing of its coronavirus lockdown last Monday, allowing some businesses to reopen while obliging passengers on public transport to wear a mask under a new rule to reduce the risk of any new outbreak. People will be able to visit the coast and Ardennes forests from May 18. On the same day, school classes will resume, starting from primary and secondary schools’ final years.
There will be a maximum of 10 students per class, while kindergartens may not reopen this academic year. Bars and restaurants will start reopening from June 8.
But mass events such as music festivals will not happen until at least September.
Every Belgian citizen also received a free fabric face mask as part of the exit strategy from the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
Restaurants will start reopening from June 8.
Bosnia is slowly emerging from its lockdown restrictions, with most government offices returning to work on May 11.
The fresh measure means all public administration will return to normal working hours as public transport is expected to reopen. Physical distancing and other protective measures will still need to be observed.
Wholesale trade businesses and retail shops, as well as hair-dressing and cosmetic salons, reopened from May 1. Owners must provide disinfection of hands and footwear for customers and disinfect premises each day before opening.
The Federation civil protection authority also said on Friday that kindergartens, dental clinics and restaurants and bars with outdoor patios and spaces might also reopen next week.
The Serb Republic already loosened restrictions on April 28, allowing seniors to leave homes for three hours each workday and some businesses to reopen. Its officials announced on Friday they may end the state of emergency by May 20.
Croatia has started a staged easing of coronavirus lockdown measures and has opened more shops and running public transport in cities.
From April 27 all shops opened apart from those located in big shopping centres. Businesses that can provide services without requiring close contact with customers, such as tailors or tourist agencies, also reopened.
From May 4 services involving close physical contact, like beauty and hairdressing shops, also reopened but with specific protection measures.
From May 11 gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed at a safe physical distance and big shopping centres will reopen. Elementary schools will open their doors then for the youngest pupils.
Bars and the restaurants will be allowed to operate, but with customers permitted only in their outside spaces, and respecting adequate protection measures.
Public events and large public gatherings will remain banned.
Cyprus extended a ban on commercial air traffic until May 17 to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The ban, first introduced on March 21 and extended by decrees since then, would now extend from to May 17, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said in a tweet, citing a decision by the island’s cabinet.
The Czech Republic’s lockdown was partially eased on April 24, to allow the resumption of internal travel. The previous day the government said a travel ban for journeys outside the country would be lifted. But anyone returning to the country will have to provide a negative test for COVID-19 or spend time in quarantine.
Border restrictions were eased on April 27 to allow in people from other EU countries for short business trips. Seasonal workers are also allowed in, under restrictions.
Some businesses and stores have been allowed to reopen, including Skoda which has restarted car production. Meanwhile gatherings of up to 10 people are being allowed, compared to two under earlier rules.
Denmark paved the way for a slow return to normal life after Easter, beginning with the re-opening of many nurseries and primary schools, as well as day care centres.
Small businesses were allowed to reopen from April 20, on condition they adhered to strict hygiene regulations.
The second phase of easing restrictions is scheduled to take place after May 10. Smaller stores have already reopened but the entire retail sector, including shopping malls, will be allowed to reopen from May 11, and restaurants and cafes one week later on May 18, when kids above fifth grade would also be allowed back to school.
However, restrictions on the number of people and opening hours will be imposed.
The country was among the first in Europe to impose lockdown measures, less stringent than in some other nations.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told Parliament on April 29 that the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic was “under control”.
Estonia will gradually open healthcare services and will open some schools on Friday May 15 as it starts to emerge from a coronavirus lockdown. The country of 1.3 million people introduced strict isolation measures in mid-March to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The number of new daily infections peaked at 93 on April 2 and has been trending lower since. The country has recorded a total of more than 1,500 infections and some 50 deaths.
Estonia plans to open secondary schools from May 15 so pupils can prepare for year-end exams, according to the three-step strategy.
Open-air museums, outside sports and hobbies will be the next permitted to resume, followed by weddings with a limited number of guests and shops in malls.
Export-dependent Estonia’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with the Central Bank forecasting a drop in GDP of between 5.5 and 14 per cent this year depending on the length of the lockdown.
The strict lockdown in France – in place since March 17 – will gradually begin to be eased from Monday, May 11.
The starkest difference for French residents on Monday is that they will no longer have to fill out a form to leave the house. Trips of up to 100 kilometres from home (or within one’s departement) will be allowed without justification, as will gatherings of up to 10 people. Longer trips will still be allowed only for work or for “compelling family reasons”, as justified by a signed form, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
Outdoor activities, such as running, will no longer be subject to one-hour limits. Some beaches will even begin to reopen, as determined by local authorities.
Guiding the government’s plans for easing the lockdown is the division of the country into two zones, green and red, based on health indicators. The red zone will comprise four regions making up the northeast of France (including Paris and its suburbs), as well as the Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte. Altogether, 32 of France’s 101 departements – home to 27 million people – will remain in the red.
For now, though, the government has imposed few additional restrictions on red areas, preferring to leave specifics to local authorities. For the week of May 11, parks and gardens are the only public places that will reopen in green zones but not red, unless otherwise specified by mayors or prefects. Travel between the two zones is allowed, as long as it respects the 100-kilometre limit. And primary schools in both zones will gradually begin to reopen, at local authorities’ discretion.
The gap between the two zones will widen on May 18, when middle schools in the green zone should begin to reopen, while those in the red won’t. At the beginning of June, the difference between the two zones is expected to grow further. At that point, high schools, bars, and restaurants in the green zone may be able to reopen, but not in departements still marked as red.
Germany, which has managed to contain the virus better than other world powers, began its first steps to ease restrictions on April 20. Smaller shops have been allowed to reopen while respecting social distancing measures, as have other businesses such as car dealers and bicycle shops.
Schools, closed since mid-March, reopened on May 4 – beginning with older students, in contrast to some other countries which plan to reopen classes for younger children first. Since then, however, German’s coronavirus spread appears to be picking up speed again, official data showed, just days after Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country could gradually return to normal.
The Robert Koch Institute for public health said Germany’s closely watched reproduction rate (the R number) had climbed to 1.1, meaning 10 people with Covid-19 infect on average 11 others.
The RKI has warned that for the infection rate to be deemed under control and slowing down, the R number has to stay below one.
As recently as last Wednesday, Germany’s number stood at 0.65, but since then, the country has reported clusters of new cases at slaughterhouses and at care homes for the elderly.
Germany has also extended a worldwide travel warning until mid-June.
Greece’s lockdown introduced on March 23 has been credited for keeping down the country’s death toll and number of critically ill patients.
Outdoor individual sports have been be permitted again from May 4, and bookshops, hair salons and electronic stores reopened then too. Working hours will be staggered to reduce interaction.
Restaurants, hotels and shopping centres won’t be allowed to open until June 1.
Playgrounds and public beaches will remain closed, and travel is only possible within someone’s home region. High school seniors will restart classes on May 11, followed a week later by other high and secondary school grades. Younger children might go back to school on June 1.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has used the pandemic to consolidate decision making in his office. In late April he lifted some restrictions outside Budapest imposed to contain the coronavirus outbreak, saying shops and restaurant terraces will be allowed to reopen without time limits.
Existing restrictions continue in the capital, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections. Those include a 3pm. closure of shops other than those selling food or medicines.
A phased reopening is the government’s strategy to head off deeper and more lasting harm to the economy, which is expected to shrink by about 4 per cent this year.
Orban said that outside the capital open-air swimming pools will also be permitted to reopen but the wearing of masks or face-coverings would remain mandatory in shops and on public transport.
He said any further loosening of restrictions would be reviewed every two weeks.
Ireland’s Taoiseach announced an extension of the country’s coronavirus restrictions to May 18 on Friday (May 1). “We need two more weeks of tight restrictions to weaken the virus further,” Leo Varadkar said.
However, he said people over 70 years old who have been told to stay home, or “cocoon” can start going outside their homes starting from May 5, as long as they avoid all contact with people.
The 2-kilometre limit that people are allowed to exercise outside their homes will also be extended to 5 kilometres.
Varadkar said that starting May 18, the country plans to reopen the economy in five stages, should the virus stay under control, with the last stage planned for August. Schools will not reopen before the start of the September school year, however.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte laid out a timetable on April 26 for reopening the country’s economy. It follows a consistent improvement in contagion figures.
Factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures in place against the virus. Public parks and gardens reopened from May 4 – numbers are limited to prevent overcrowding – and people can visit relatives who live in the same region.
Funerals will no more than 15 guests can resume from that date, but mourners must wear masks.
If all goes well, retails shops can reopen on May 18, with restaurants, cafés, barber shops and hair salons following on June 1.
Conte stressed the importance of social distancing and said that if rules were not followed, coronavirus cases and deaths would rise again and there would be “irreparable damage” to the economy.
On March 8 Italy became the first European country to confine people to their homes for all but essential reasons.
According to the Baltic News Network, the state of emergency declared in Latvia over the spread of COVID-19 has been extended to 9 June. At the same time, the government has decided on lifting different restrictions.
Under certain conditions it will be allowed up to 25 people gathering, as well as permit shopping centres to stay open on weekends and holidays.
It was decided to permit gathering indoors and outdoors after May 12. At the same time, no more than 25 people are allowed to simultaneously participate in events. Indoor events will not be allowed to last longer than three hours. Outdoor events are not limited by time.
The nation’s Culture Ministry is allowing some gatherings of up to 25 people as long as social distancing is maintained and the events don’t last longer than three hours.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will also open their borders to each other’s citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union.
The Lithuanian government extended the nationwide coronavirus lockdown until May 11 but gave the green light for museums, libraries, outdoor cafes, hairdressers and beauty salons, and retail stores in shopping malls to reopen before then.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will also open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions.
“It’s a big step towards life as normal,” Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas wrote on Twitter.
The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travellers as the coronavirus spread across the continent.
Citizens of the three countries will be free to travel within the region, but anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.
“We showed a good example by stating, very clearly, that only countries which successfully dealt with the situation can open themselves up,” he added.
“I think we will keep to this principle when dealing with countries where the situation is very bad, which did not take measures to control the virus spread.”
Poland and Finland could be the next countries to join the free travel bloc, said Skvernelis.
According to RTL, many businesses and shops can reopen their doors from May 11 as Luxembourg eases its lockdown measures. A handful of commercial activities nevertheless still remain banned until further notice from the government.
The second phase of Luxembourg’s gradual lockdown strategy kicked off Monday morning with shops receiving the much-anticipated green light to reopen their doors to clients.
The Ministry of the Interior reiterated in a statement that not all commercial activities are allowed to resume this week. Restaurants, bars, and cafés are not yet allowed to reopen. The same holds true for cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, amusement parks, theme parks, indoor gaming and entertainment facilities, and casinos.
According to the Luxembourg times, there were no Covid-19 related deaths in Luxembourg between Saturday and Sunday and only nine more people tested positive for the virus, the health ministry said.
The death toll still stands at 101 and 3,886 people have contracted the virus. There has been just one death over the past four days since Friday.
Malta is a gradually lifting of coronavirus restrictions as the number of new cases dwindles, with many shops allowed to reopen from last Monday.
However, the government said people would have to wear masks in stores to prevent a resurgence of the disease.
But Bars, restaurants and hairdressers must stay shuttered, the government said. The airport will remain closed at least until the end of May and schools will not reopen this academic year.
Malta, the smallest country in the European Union, has reported about 450 COVID-19 cases and four deaths. Health Minister Chris Fearne said the closely watched virus reproduction rate had been below 1 for more than a fortnight. This means each person with the virus is passing it on to less than one other person, on average, which should eventually lead to the outbreak petering out.
After the first case was registered on the Mediterranean island in March, Malta gradually shut down its ports, schools and all non-essential shops, while banning gatherings.
Norway aims to reopen by mid-June most of the public and private institutions that have been closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said last week.
The Nordic country was one of the first in Europe to curb activities to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus, on March 12, and to relax some restrictions once it got the outbreak under control, in late April.
“Thanks to our common efforts since March, we have brought the contamination under control,” Solberg said. “We can therefore, over time, lighten the toughest measures.”
Norway, like many other European countries, is trying to negotiate a path between the need for reopening society while at the same time avoiding a flare-up in new contaminations.
Kindergartens reopened on April 20, primary schools from first to fourth grade on April 27, but middle schools and high schools have remained closed. They will now resume from May 11.
The government also aims to allow the Norwegian football league to resume on June 16 and planned events with up to 200 participants one day earlier.
Bars and amusement parks could reopen on June 1, while private gatherings of 20 people, rather than five, were allowed from last Thursday.
The Dutch government has taken the first tentative steps in relaxing its coronavirus containment measures, allowing elementary school children to return to their classrooms – part-time – from May 11 and allowing older children to take part in organised sports.
But at the same time, Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended a ban on all large-scale events such as music festivals and professional football until September 1 while bars and restaurants will remain shut until at least May 20.
The Netherlands has been in what Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” since mid-March that closed down schools, restaurants, bars and museums but stopped short of ordering people in this nation of 17 million to stay home.
Instead, they were urged to act responsibly to slow the spread of the virus – to work from home, stay home as much as possible and engage in social distancing if they venture outdoors.
Shopping centres and hotels across Poland reopened on May 4, with schools and kindergartens following two days later.
Last Wednesday, however, Poland postponed its presidential election that was supposed to happen on May 10.
A new date for the election will be announced “as soon as possible,” ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and coalition partner leader Jaroslaw Gowin said in a statement.
“Having in mind Poles’ safety, due to the epidemic, the elections will be held by postal vote,” they said.
The decision comes after the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party faced mounting pressure over its plans to press forward with the vote despite health concerns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The PiS party had been pushing to hold the May 10 election as a postal vote. The short-notice postal vote plans were heavily criticised amid concerns that the hastily thrown together election might not hold up to democratic standards.
Portugal downgraded its state of emergency to a category of “calamity” on May 2 after a six-week state of emergency when people were urged to stay indoors except for brief exercise, and most non-essential services were shut.
Assuming the Covid-19 outbreak continues to slow, the second phase will begin on May 18. Larger businesses will be allowed to open, as well as nursery schools, restaurants, bars and cafes. Cinemas, theatres and gyms will also be permitted to open from that date, but social distancing must be practised.
Some schools will reopen, but under strict restrictions, including the obligatory use of face masks.
Team sports in enclosed spaces or contact sports will still be restricted, with the exception of professional football. Matches will be allowed behind closed doors from May 30 for the first and second divisions to play the remaining games of the season.
The third and final phase of the lockdown de-escalation is expected to be in June, when beaches and hotels are expected to be allowed to reopen. Restrictions on group religious ceremonies are also expected to be lifted.
The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus in Russia rose by a record daily amount to 11,656 in the previous 24 hours, making the official tally 221,344.
More than half of all cases and deaths are in Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak. The Russian capital on Monday reported an overnight increase of 6,169 new cases, bringing its official total to 115,909.
The country’s coronavirus response centre also reported 94 new deaths, taking the overall death toll to 2,009. The official death toll remains far lower than in many countries, something Kremlin critics have queried.
Official data published on Sunday showed Moscow reported 18 per cent more deaths in April this year than the same month in 2019, raising the possibility that the official death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, seriously understates the spread of the virus.
Government officials attribute the lower death toll and the rising and large number of cases to a vast testing programme, under which they say 5.6 million tests have been conducted.
That, they say, has allowed doctors to quickly identify people who need medical care and make sure they receive it in a timely fashion.
Anadolu News reported that Serbia lifted a state of emergency and night curfew last Wednesday as a significant number of new infections from the coronavirus declined.
Walking is allowed, but not in a group, and celebrations, including weddings, baptisms, birthdays are expected to be permitted beginning June 15.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said before the vote that Serbians should enjoy “success so far.”
“For me, the happiest day will be when we can raise our flags again so that they are no longer halfway through the pole. This will mean that Serbia has won, there are no more coronavirus casualties," Brnabic said.
Schools, colleges, sports halls, and gyms have been closed and the country also shut its borders to foreigners.
Serbia declared an open-ended state of emergency March 15, imposed night curfews and banned those older than 65 from leaving home.
Slovakia reopened restaurant terraces, hotels, all shops outside large malls and other businesses last Wednesday, expediting plans to revive the economy thanks to better-than-expected progress in containing the coronavirus outbreak.
The government, which opened small shops on April 22, also gave the green light for religious services and weddings to take place with a limited number of guests.
Slovakia’s coronavirus lockdown loosened further as the government merged the second and third stages of its reopening plan.
Wednesday’s moves, under which hairdressers could also return to work, came after tests showed 11 consecutive days of single-digit growth in new infections.
The central European country of 5.5 million people has recorded far fewer cases of the new coronavirus than its neighbours after acting faster than most to shut borders and impose other tough measures to curb contagion.
Slovakia was one of the first countries in Europe to ban international passenger travel. It imposed a compulsory 14-day quarantine in state-run centres for people returning from abroad and ordered compulsory wearing of face masks in public.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic has said the next stage will be launched at the earliest on May 20 and allow shopping malls, theatres and cinemas to return to business.
The final stage would include reopening schools and kindergartens while allowing mass public and sporting events.
Two weeks ago, Slovenia lifted a restriction that prohibited citizens from travelling outside their local municipalities. Now its schools and kindergartens, which have been closed since the middle of March, would gradually start reopening from May 18.
The nation has also allowed hairdressers and beauty parlours, as well as outdoor bars and restaurants and a number of shops, to open from last Monday. Libraries and museums are also expected to open on May 11.
Large public events, including large sports gatherings, would only be possible after a vaccination or medication for the coronavirus is discovered and widely used.
Slovenia closed all schools, bars, restaurants, hotels, cultural and sports centres, and shops, apart from food and drug stores, and suspended public transport in the middle of March. It has prohibited any socialising in public spaces and introduced an obligatory quarantine for most people entering the country.
On Monday morning Spanish life looked a little more like normal as waiters in face masks served coffees and “bocadillo” sandwiches at cafe terraces in Seville morning as parts of Spain eased restrictions amid a slowing coronavirus epidemic that saw the number of new fatalities drop to a near two-month low.
About half of Spain’s 47 million people progressed to the so-called Phase 1 of a four-step plan to relax one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns on Monday after the government decided that the regions in which they live met the necessary criteria.
Still, cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, which have been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, have been left behind for now and cafes remained shuttered in the normally packed Puerta del Sol square in the capital.
Health ministry data showed the daily death toll dropping to 123 on Monday from Sunday’s 143, bringing the total number of fatalities from the pandemic to 26,744 in one of the world’s worst-affected countries. The daily number, a seven week-low, has come down from a record of 950 in early April.
Church services resumed with limited capacity and chairs, rather than pews, were spaced out inside for the faithful to preserve a 2 metre distance.
Under the lockdown relaxation, up to 10 people can gather together and people are allowed to move freely around their province.
Businesses were happy to resume work after the long paralysis, but many said they were still piling up losses.
In regions that qualify, including most of Andalusia – Spain’s most populous – as well as the Canary and Balearic Islands, bars, restaurants, shops, museums, gyms and hotels were allowed to open, most at reduced capacity.
But Madrid, Barcelona and other cities including Valencia, Malaga and Granada will remain in Phase 0, much to the annoyance of regional governments struggling with the economic implications of a prolonged lockdown.
Sweden’s unique strategy to deal with coronavirus will ensure it has only a small second wave of cases unlike other countries that could be forced to return to lockdown, according to the architect of the contentious policy.
On Friday, Anders Tegnell, the top epidemiologist in the Scandinavian nation of some 10 million and the mastermind of its no-lockdown approach, estimated that 40 per cent of people living in Stockholm will be immune to Covid-19 by the end of May.
The nation and its controversial approach are being watched very closely. While other nations have locked down and imposed strict restrictions of movements and gatherings, primary and secondary schools, restaurants, cafés and shops remained mostly and operating as normal in Sweden. Instead, public health authorities relied heavily on voluntary social distancing and encouraging people to work from home. Universities were closed and gatherings of more than 50 people banned – but it’s an approach that’s at odds with most other nations.
So far, its death toll is slightly over the 3,000 mark – roughly three times higher than neighbouring Norway or Denmark.
Switzerland’s Federal Council announced in late April that shops, restaurants, museums, libraries, and schools will be allowed to reopen their doors on May 11. A vastly expanded reopening will follow on June 8.
It’s part of a multi-layered process that saw some businesses – including hair salons, tattoo parlours, veterinary surgeries and garden shops – that began opening on April 27. Precautionary measures including social distancing rules are being taken.
Public gatherings will still be restricted to five people so restaurants that reopen will need to ensure a distance of at least two metres between tables.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a populist juggernaut, fond of suggesting that his leadership is the only way to protect the country from enemies both real and imagined. The coronavirus pandemic, however, is an existential crisis unlike anything he has faced before, the Guardian reports
“Erdogan has gradually managed to reform Turkey’s constitution, consolidating power into the presidency’s hands,” said Nate Schenkkan, the director for special research at Freedom House, a US-based democracy watchdog. “When the country grapples with the economic fallout from coronavirus, there will be few scapegoats left to blame. He may become a victim of his own success.”
There is little doubt a major pandemic-induced financial crisis is about to hit Turkey. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the country’s economy will shrink by 5 per cent for 2020, driving up inflation to 12 per cent and unemployment to 17.2 per cent. Some predictions paint an even grimmer picture in which unemployment could reach 30 per cent.
In speeches, Erdogan has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of an IMF bailout, and comments from a US Federal Reserve official last week suggested a credit swap line to cushion the lira’s fall will not be forthcoming.
“Informally, inflation in Turkey is already well above the official rate. Interest rate cuts mean the government is paving the way for new currency shocks and high inflation,” economist Selsuk Gecer told the Guardian. “Turkey was already completely broke when coronavirus hit. We are looking at a very deep and prolonged recession.”
The coronavirus lockdown will not end yet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday, urging people to “stay alert” to the risks as he outlined plans to begin slowly easing measures that have closed much of the economy for seven weeks.
While his directions were for England, the government wants the United Kingdom’s other nations to take the same approach. But there were immediate divisions, with the leaders of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland saying they were sticking with the existing “stay-at-home” message.
In a televised address, Johnson announced a limited easing of restrictions, including allowing people to exercise outside more often
“This is not the time simply to end the lockdown,” he said. “Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.”
With both the death rate and hospital admissions falling, it would be “madness” to allow a second spike in infections, he said.
But the decision to replace the government’s “stay-at-home” slogan, drummed into the public for weeks, was criticised by opposition parties who called the new “stay alert” message ambiguous.
Johnson said people should continue to work from home if they could, but those who cannot, such people working in construction and manufacturing, should be “actively encouraged to go to work”.
From Wednesday, people will be allowed to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise, he said, and can sit in the sun in their local park, drive to other destinations, and play sports with members of their own household.
Until now, people have been told only to exercise outdoors once a day and do so locally. Social distancing rules must still be obeyed, Johnson said, adding that fines would be increased for those who break them.
Johnson said he would set out further details to parliament on Monday, when a “roadmap” document will be published.
But opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson had raised more questions than he had answered and there was now the prospect of different parts of the United Kingdom pulling in different directions.
MEME OF THE DAY
There’s another meme shared with me on Facebook by my friend, Craig, who lives on the Canary Islands. He’s a big fan of dogs too. All pet owners can relate to the cone of shame.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
Oh, if only every day could be like Monday when it comes to investing, with a profit of more than £400 on Monday’s business on the London Stock Exchange.
A reminder that this is all pretend, I started off some 40 days ago with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 to play with, I don’t pay for trades, I can buy any amount of shares and can only do so when the market is closed
I went into trading on Monday with a profit so far of £11,299.38. Ocado and Diageo both did well, but my 1,200 shares in PowerHouse – I bought them at 87p each – took off on Monday, closing at £1.45 each and up more than 26 per cent on the day. My 2,600 Drax shares were down to an even £2 each.
Here’s how I stand after Monday’s trading:
Net worth: £11,700.48
Diageo, 100 shares: £2831.00
Ocado, 100 shares: £1914.50
Drax, 2,600 shares: £5200.00
PowerHouse 1,200 shares: £1,740
Cash in hand: £14.98
£ gain on last trading day: £401.10
% Gain overall: 11.7 per cent
£ Gain overall: £1,700.48
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection that serves as a reminder that today’s couch potatoes are being undermined by covidiocy.
SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY
During the Second World War, Britons endured many hardships on their way to victory and the focus was on the nation’s efforts then during Friday’s VE celebrations. Those marked 75 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe.
Today’s modern Britons are being asked to stay home as much as possible and avoid contact with each other. It’s the least people can do, ?
Wrong. Not covidiots.
Despite advice from the UK government and public health officials to stay to at least two metres apart from others at all times to prevent the spread of coronavirus, pictures emerged of people celebrating the day in large crowds.
One video even appeared to show a large conga line forming on the street.
The news comes as Edinburgh locals were slammed for forming large crowds and socialising on Portobello Beach during the lockdown.
In Lancashire, covidiots huddled together on the street to pose for a VE day picture.
And in Warrington, a video emerged of cividiot families celebrating the day by joining together to form a conga line in the sunshine.
A medley of images shared by another angry Twitter user showed crowds across the UK forming and a street party of covidiots in Cosham.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I’m not an expert, but I might be able to help you make a bit of sense of this. And we can all get through it together. Isn’t this what this is all about.
Send your questions for me to Readers@gulfnews.com.
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. I have used files from Reuters, AP, SkyNews, Twitter and other European and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe