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May 15, 2020

The world is opening, with cautions


May 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan is grappling with coronavirus pandemic and sluggish economy with easing lockdown to some extent, there are fears that violations of the SOPs and other safety measures could exacerbate the situation. Many countries around the world are also taking a cautious approach in dealing with the virus and normalising the daily life of their citizenries. Here are some counties and their methodology to ease lockdown:


Denmark has cut in half the physical distance its citizens must maintain, as the country takes a key step toward ending two months of restrictions on movement. The social distancing requirement has been reset to 1 meter, or about 3 feet, from 2 meters, the Danish Health Authority said.

Denmark is now in the second phase of a return to something resembling pre-Covid life, with shops across the country opened on Monday. Restaurants and cafes will follow next week while cinemas, museums and amusement parks will open in June. (Primary schools have been open since April, with older students set to resume in-class tuition next week).

Denmark, one of the first European countries to announce a lockdown, started to roll back measures in mid-April and is moving ahead with the second phase of its roadmap. Hairdressers, beauty and massage salons, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors reopened on April 20. Professional sport is allowed behind closed doors, along with amateur sport under guidelines.

Shopping centres reopened on May 11 with social distancing guidelines. Social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Cafes and restaurants will reopen on May 18, with social distancing, as do zoos and libraries.


After one month of lockdown, Austria has become one of the first European countries to loosen its coronavirus measures in April 14. Restrictions have been lifted gradually, with non-essential shops opening first.

Austria will allow bars, restaurants and churches to reopen from today (May 15) in a further loosening of its coronavirus lockdown provided infections do not surge again, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. Restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to stay open until 11 pm. Religious services can resume from today.

Shops must limit the number of customers they let in, and shoppers must cover their mouth and nose with a mask or fabric. Kurz said wearing a face mask would be part of the “new normality”. It is already required on public transport.

Secondary schools are due to reopen for school leavers in early May. Kurz said that for other years schools would reopen in an unspecified step-by-step process beginning from today (May 15). Outdoor sport that can be socially distanced, such as tennis, golf and athletics is now allowed.


Some Germans got a taste of normal life at the weekend as restaurants and places of worship reopened after weeks of coronavirus restrictions.

In the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, residents took advantage of the sunny weather to flock to their favourite eateries and cafes for the first time since mid-March. Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said Germany had passed the "first phase" of the pandemic, allowing for a gradual return to normal -- even if a spike in cases since then has revived concern about the country´s infection rate. Under Germany's federal system, each of its 16 states makes its own decisions on how to emerge from lockdown. Most shops are already open again, and children are slowly returning to classrooms. Even Bundesliga football matches are set to resume. Religious services are starting up again too. On Sunday, Berlin Cathedral held its first Mass since the lockdown.

"The service was like a fresh start, it was very moving," Susanne Romberg said on her way out of the imposing building. But here too, the coronavirus made its presence felt.

Worshippers had to sign in upon arrival, greeted by a clerk behind a plexiglass screen. They were asked to wear masks and disinfect their hands at the door. On the pews, little notices reminded people to keep their distance. In line with rules agreed by places of worship across Germany, there was no singing to prevent the spread of the virus through droplets from an infected person's mouth.


Belgian schools will partially reopen and markets, museums and zoos will also be allowed to operate again from next Monday (May18), Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said, in a further easing of the country's two-month coronavirus lockdown.

Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million, is among the European nations worst hit by COVID-19.

Beginning next Monday, primary and secondary schools will restart with smaller classes of final-year pupils under strict social distancing rules.

Museums, historical buildings and zoos can also admit their first visitors Monday, although they will have to sell time-specific tickets online and set up a one-way system showing how people must move through their rooms and galleries.

Sports clubs will resume training in the presence of a coach and with no more than 20 people present. Libraries too can reopen.

However, cafes, restaurants and sports and cultural centers will have to remain closed for at least another three weeks. No sports or cultural events will take place before June 30.


Italy’s regional governments will be allowed to reopen bars, restaurants, hairdressers, barbers and beauty parlours to open from Monday, May 18th, after the national government gave local authorities the go-ahead. Italy imposed a strict and lengthy lockdown, with a ban on walking or exercising more than 200m away from home. In early May, some restrictions were relaxed and people are now able to travel for longer distances, as well as visit their relatives in small numbers. Visits to other regions of the country are still banned. Bars and restaurants, which can offer takeaway services, are expected to fully reopen for dine-in service from June 1. Hairdressers and beauty salons are due to reopen from June 1. More shops will reopen on May 18 along with museums and libraries. Sports teams will also be able to hold group training from May 18. Funerals are now allowed with a maximum of 15 people attending, ideally outdoors. Schools will not reopen until September. The Catholic Church will be allowed to hold masses from May 18.


Spain outlined a four-stage plan on May 4 to start rolling back one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, which saw children under 14 confined to their homes for six weeks.

Restrictions will be eased in two-week blocks until June 10, but only in some parts of the country. Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Malaga and some regions in the north-east will stay under full lockdown for the moment. As of first thing, adults are allowed to exercise between 6am and 10am and then 8pm till 11pm. The children’s slot is midday till 7pm, while the streets belong to older people and those who need assistance from 10am till midday and then 7pm till 8pm. Schools will be partially reopened from May 26. This will allow for revision classes and state exams but a full reopening is not expected until September. From 11 May, customers can order a beer in a terrace bar but bars and restaurants will not fully reopen until June 10, adhering to strict social distancing guidelines and only at 50% capacity. Cinemas, theatres and exhibitions will be allowed to open from May 26, but will only be allowed to operate at 30% capacity. Outdoor concerts of up to 400 people will be permitted if concert-goers remain at a safe distance from each other. Churches and mosques reopened from May 11, but only at partial capacity.


France has cautiously begun to lift its lockdown, with millions back in work after eight weeks of restrictions.

Shops are reopening, many pupils are returning to primary schools, and people will not need travel certificates when they leave home. But some parts of the country - including the capital Paris - remain under tighter controls, with the country split into green and red zones.

The government has released a detailed plan of how France will slowly come out of lockdown, first brought in on 17 March. Masks are mandatory on public transport and in secondary schools as they reopen in the coming weeks. Shops also have the right to ask customers to wear one.

Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed, and the elderly and vulnerable will be allowed outside. People will no longer need travel permits to explain why they have left home. Car journeys of up to 100km (60 miles) from home are allowed, but drivers need permission for distances further than that. And anyone wanting to travel in Paris during rush hour will need authorisation from their employer.

So while primary schools and nurseries opened in much of France on Monday last (May 11), schools for 11 to 15-year-olds known as collèges open only in green zones on 18 May. Schools for 15 to 18-year-olds (lycées) are not opening before June.


The government has lifted Portugal’s state of emergency which has now been replaced with a state of calamity. This means that restrictions are easing in Portugal to allow the opening of further businesses and certain activities. According to the government, every 15 days, the impacts of the measures on the evolution of the pandemic will be assessed, “taking into account the permanent updating of data and the assessment of the situation by the health authorities.” If the numbers are looking good then further easing of restrictions will come into place.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands imposed a far less strict lockdown than its southern neighbour. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has unveiled a five-phase plan for easing lockdown restrictions that kicks in from May 11.

Libraries are opening to visitors and hairdressers, nail bars, beauticians, masseuses and occupational therapists are back at work from May 11. Primary schools will also partially reopen. Bars and restaurants will be able to open their outdoor spaces to customers from June 1; secondary schools will also reopen.

Public transport services will resume pre-lockdown schedules, provided travellers wear face-masks. Campsites and holiday parks can reopen from July 1, as can theatres, restaurants and cinemas with up to 100 customers with social distancing. People can play team sports outdoors as long they observe social distancing. Larger events and contact sports may resume in September, along with night clubs and saunas.


Switzerland began easing its eight-week lockdown in stages from April 27, with each new stage depending on the success of the last. At one point in March, cases of coronavirus were doubled and even tripled within 24 hours.

Garden centres, hairdressers and beauty salons were allowed to reopen on April 27. Schools, libraries, museums and non-food shops followed on May 11, with strict distancing measures. So too did restaurants, bars and cafes with a limit of four guests per table, with tables two metres apart. Hand sanitiser is being provided at railway stations and passengers are advised to wear masks on public transport and work at home if possible.

Zoos, swimming pools, mountain railways, cinemas and theatres may open on June 8, when gatherings of more than five people may be permitted. Open air events and gatherings of more than 1,000 are banned until at least the end of August.


Russia's nationwide lockdown eased from May 12, and that businesses went back to work to stop unemployment rising further. President Putin said it was up to individual regions to decide the best policy. Russia reported at least 10,000 new infections for 10 days in a row up to 12 May.

Construction and industry are the sectors which should be the first to resume work, according to President Putin. But large public events will still be banned, and those aged over 65 will be urged to stay at home. Moscow, as the worst-hit city, is keeping tough restrictions in place until at least May 31. From May 12 it is compulsory to wear gloves and masks in shops and on public transport in Moscow. Only food shops and pharmacies are open; schools are shut and many people are working from home.

Sweden: Strict restrictions never imposedStrictly speaking, there was no real lockdown so Sweden does not have much to remove. It never imposed measures like those seen across the rest of the continent.

Restaurants, bars, schools and businesses remained opened. But it did ban gatherings of more than 50 people and visits to nursing homes for elderly. Sweden has recorded over 3,000 deaths, the highest per capita number compared with the rest of the Nordic countries. Most of the population have taken to voluntary social distancing. many are working from home, keeping at least a metre away from other people at least some of the time and refraining from travelling.

New Zealand

New Zealand on Thursday (May 14) entered level two of lockdown easing - and the country is open for business.

Shopping centres, retail stores and restaurants reopened as of midnight with many people returning their workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic. But most gatherings will be limited to 10 people and social distancing guidelines will remain in place under the level two restrictions.

Level two allows for businesses to reopen safely, travel between regions and socialise with friends and family in groups of up to 10.

In addition, weddings, religious ceremonies and recreation activities can have up to 10 people.

The United States

The US states of Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska have begun loosening lockdown orders on their pandemic-wounded businesses despite warnings from health experts that such steps may be coming too early.

Other states, such as Florida and Michigan, are also showing some tentative signs of starting to ease restrictions. In Colorado Governor Jared Polis has announced that a previously issued “stay-at-home” mandate is being updated to a “safer-at-home” mandate, with select businesses also now reopening. In Texas some businesses, including restaurants, have opened in defiance of state guidance.

The tentative first moves feed into a national debate over how much and how quickly the US should reopen as the virus wreaks both economic carnage that has cratered the once-booming economy but also continues to kill hundreds of Americans every day.


Last week China designated all its regions as either low or medium risk of COVID-19.

However, on Sunday China’s health authorities reported 17 new cases - the highest number in nearly two weeks.

Over the weekend a new outbreak of at least 12 cases has been recorded in Shulan, a city near China’s borders with North Korea and Russia.

Reports suggest the government declared a lockdown for the region on Sunday, and all public places have been temporarily shut.

Since April, China has implemented strict rules on testing, quarantine and screening.

On Friday last week, the Chinese government announced cinemas, museums and other public places will start to reopen under certain conditions.

The financial hub of Shanghai has reopened some night spots.

The Walt Disney Co also reopened its Shanghai Disneyland park on Monday, to a reduced number of visitors.