Coronovirus: How lockdown is being lifted across Europe

Published on Monday, 25 May 2020

By BBC News

After almost seven weeks of lockdown in the UK restrictions are being eased, but everywhere social distancing is the rule.

Across Europe, lockdown measures are being lifted cautiously, in phases. Businesses are reopening and many children are back in school. Here is how Europeans are emerging from life under lockdown.

Germany: Shops reopen and football resumes

Germany has begun opening up: control of lifting the lockdown will now be in the hands of Germany’s 16 federal states. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that an ”emergency brake” will be applied anywhere that sees a surge in new infections.

  • Bundesliga football matches resumed behind closed doors on Saturday 16 May – the first big European league to do so
  • Shops of all sizes are now allowed to reopen, with extra hygiene and social distancing measures
  • Shops smaller than 800m sq have been allowed to open since 20 April, alongside car dealerships, bicycle shops and bookshops
  • Schools have been partially reopened for young children and those taking exams
  • Border controls were eased on 15 May with Austria, France and Switzerland and will be lifted on 15 June
  • Two different households are now allowed to meet up with each other
  • Big public events like festivals are banned until at least the end of August

Italy: Funeral gatherings and more travel permitted

Italy imposed a strict and lengthy lockdown on 7 March – initially in the north, then nationwide – with a ban on walking or exercising more than 200m (656ft) 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. Travel between regions and to and from the country will be allowed from 3 June .

  • Bars and restaurants reopened on 18 May, but hosting reduced numbers of diners, with tables further apart and plastic shields to separate customers
  • Hairdressers also reopened on 18 May, as did more shops museums and libraries, and sports teams are able to hold group training
  • Catholic Church masses resumed from 18 May, but with strict social distancing and wearing of face masks
  • Funerals are now allowed with a maximum of 15 people attending, ideally outdoors
  • Schools will not reopen until September
  • Gyms and swimming pools reopened in most regions on 25 May, with strict social distancing rules, but not in Lombardy, the northern region at the epicentre of Italy’s crisis

France: End to travel permits

France’s strict lockdown was imposed on 17 March, with residents required to provide a travel permit justifying any outdoor trips. Since 11 May those restrictions have been eased.

Residents no longer have to provide travel certificates , and car journeys of up to 100km (62 miles) from home are now permitted. Longer trips still require a certificate.

  • The lockdown map shows France split in two, with four ” red zones ” including Paris keeping parks, gardens and schools for 11 to 18-year-olds shut for the time being
  • Primary schools and nurseries began reopening after 11 May and schools for 11 to 15 year-olds collèges ) in “green zones” on 18 May. A limit of 15 pupils is put on classrooms and masks are compulsory for older children. Schools for 15 to 18-year-olds ( lycées ) are not opening before June
  • All shops (bar Paris shopping centres) can now reopen; leisure centres and cemeteries can reopen but bars and restaurants will remain closed
  • Gatherings of fewer than 10 people are also permitted; the elderly and vulnerable are allowed out but must use common sense
  • Beaches have also begun reopening, the first on the Brittany coast and under tight restrictions
  • Lockdown bites poor as France eases grip

Baltic countries: The first ‘travel bubble’ in Europe

The three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – have become the first countries in Europe to allow free movement again, but only with each other.

Since 15 May citizens and residents have been able to move freely across the three countries, provided they haven’t travelled outside the Baltic states in the past two weeks, are not infected, and have not been in contact with an infected person.

Those coming from elsewhere still have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Ireland: Five steps and small summer weddings

Ireland has had a stricter lockdown than the UK, with residents only allowed to exercise within 2km (1.2 miles) of their homes. But a five-stage roadmap to reopen the country started on 18 May, with restrictions eased every three weeks.

  • Schools will remain shut until September, while outdoor workers such as construction workers and gardeners resumed activities from 18 May; you can meet friends or family in groups of up to four within 5km of home; anyone arriving in Ireland has to go into self-isolation for 14 days
  • Creches and nurseries will open for the children of essential workers from 29 June, and this will be extended to the children of other workers from 20 July
  • Social visits will be permitted to other households from 8 June, and from 29 June, people will be allowed to travel within a 20km radius of their homes
  • Weddings, baptisms and small social gatherings will be allowed from 20 July, but only for family and close friends
  • Shops selling non-essential items can open from 8 June if the number of staff and customers remains small, and larger premises can open from 29 June

Belgium: Four people in your social bubble

Restrictions are slowly being lifted in a country that has seen a high number of deaths in care homes.

  • Since 10 May, people in the same household have been allowed to receive visits from a group of up to four people
  • Fabric shops reopened on 4 May, as new regulations require all Belgians aged 12 or over to wear masks on public transport
  • Other shops reopened on 11 May, with strict social distancing
  • Schools resumed classes from 18 May, but no more than 10 children are allowed in each classroom
  • Markets, museums and zoos also reopened from 18 May. Markets are restricted to 50 stalls and museums and zoos have to have one-way systems and online ticketing with time slots
  • Hairdressers and beauty salons reopened on 18 May
  • Cafes and restaurants will start to open from 8 June

No public sporting or cultural events can take place before 30 June.

Netherlands: Hairdressers and nail bars back in business

The Netherlands imposed a far less strict lockdown than next-door Belgium. Prime Minister Mark Rutte unveiled a five-phase plan for easing lockdown restrictions, which kicked in from 11 May.

  • Libraries are open again and hairdressers, nail bars, beauticians, masseuses and occupational therapists went back to work from 11 May
  • Bars and restaurants will open to customers from 1 June for up to 30 guests inside and unlimited numbers outside, provide people maintain 1.5m distance. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls will also open subject to a 30-guest maximum, and face masks become mandatory on public transport the same day for anyone aged 13 and over
  • Secondary school pupils return to class on 2 June
  • Campsites and holiday parks can reopen from 1 July, as can theatres, restaurants and cinemas with up to 100 customers with social distancing
  • Larger events and contact sports may resume in September, along with sex clubs and saunas

Austria: Tourist attractions to reopen

Austria was one of the first countries to ease its lockdown. The health minister said the reopening of small shops in mid-April didn’t cause a spike in cases.

  • Larger shops, shopping centres and hairdressers reopened in early May
  • Public parks, small shops, DIY stores and garden centres have been allowed to open since 14 April
  • Outdoor sport that can be socially distanced, such as tennis, golf and athletics, is now allowed
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people have been allowed since the start of May
  • Restaurants and cafes reopened from mid-May, while hotels, zoos, swimming pools and tourist attractions will open from the end of the month
  • Final-year school pupils returned to classes at the start of May

Denmark: Restrictions eased since mid-April

Denmark, one of the first European countries to announce a lockdown, started to ease restrictions in mid-April.

  • Day care centres and primary schools returned on 14 April, although parents and visitors are not allowed on school premises and children attend in shifts. Children aged 12-16 returned from 18 May, as well as exam students
  • Hairdressers, beauty and massage salons, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors reopened on 20 April
  • Professional sport is allowed behind closed doors, along with amateur sport under guidelines
  • Shopping centres reopened on 11 May with social distancing guidelines
  • Social gatherings are limited to 10 people
  • Cafes and restaurants reopened on 18 May, with social distancing, then cinemas, theatres, museums and art galleries reopened on 21 May also with social distancing
  • Borders remain shut
  • Phase 3 starts on 8 June and covers museums, cinemas, indoor sports and colleges
  • Phase 4 in early August will include gyms, swimming pools and nightclubs

Spain: Schools to remain shut until September

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

The easing is happening in two-week blocks until 10 June, but not everywhere at the same time. Restrictions in Madrid, Barcelona Granada and Málaga were eased from 25 May.

  • Face masks are compulsory for anyone aged six and over in public, both inside and outside, if it isn’t possible to maintain social distance
  • Schools will be partially reopened from 26 May. This will allow for revision classes and state exams but a full reopening is not expected until September
  • From 11 May customers were able to order a beer in a terrace bar, but bars and restaurants will not fully reopen until 10 June, adhering to strict social distancing guidelines and only at 50% capacity
  • Cinemas, theatres and exhibitions will reopen from 26 May, but only at 30% capacity. Outdoor concerts of up to 400 people will be permitted if concert-goers remain at a safe distance from each other
  • From 1 July people travelling from abroad – including tourists – will no longer have to spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival in Spain

Switzerland: Museums and restaurants return

Switzerland began easing its eight-week lockdown in stages from 27 April.

  • Garden centres, hairdressers and beauty salons were allowed to reopen on 27 April
  • Schools, libraries, museums and non-food shops followed on 11 May, with strict distancing measures
  • So too did restaurants, bars and cafes with a limit of four guests per table, with tables 2m apart
  • Hand sanitiser is being provided at railway stations and passengers are advised to wear masks on public transport
  • Zoos, swimming pools, mountain railways, cinemas and theatres may open on 8 June, 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

Portugal: Small, local businesses first

Portugal has had fewer coronavirus cases and deaths than some other south European nations.

The government announced a three-phase plan, reopening different sectors of the economy every 15 days.

  • Small neighbourhood shops, hairdressers, car dealerships and bookshops started opening from 4 May
  • Bigger shops, restaurants, museums and coffee shops reopened from 18 May, but at reduced capacity
  • Infants and some secondary school students also went back on 18 May, but all other school classes will continue remotely
  • Shopping centres, cinemas and theatres to open in June, when office workers might also gradually return

Greece: Tourism central to reopening plan

Greece recorded its first Covid-19 case on 26 February and the government acted swiftly to impose a lockdown. On 28 April, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a relaxation of lockdown measures in the weeks ahead.

  • Churches opened for individual prayer on 4 May and religious services were allowed from 17 May
  • Schools reopened on 11 May for final-year students only, with special measures including students attending classes on different days
  • Shops are now all able to reopen and indoor shopping centres can do so on 1 June
  • Cafes and restaurants reopened on 25 May, but with social distancing
  • Beaches reopened on 4 May and Greece has declared that the tourist season will start on 15 June, with the opening of seasonal hotels on the same day
  • Travel to the islands resumed on 25 May for mainland Greeks, but not for foreign tourists; from 1 July Greece is set to lift the two-week quarantine rule for foreigners
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Russia: Starting to go back to work

President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia’s nationwide lockdown was being eased from 12 May, and that businesses could go back to work to stop unemployment rising further. He also said it was up to individual regions to decide the best policy. But Russia’s daily infection rate remains high, compared with the rest of Europe.

  • Construction and industry were the first sectors to resume work, under President Putin’s plan
  • But large public events are still be banned
  • Moscow , as the worst-hit city, is keeping tough restrictions in place until at least 31 May
  • 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

Poland: Parks and forests first to reopen

In Poland, Covid-19 numbers are lower than in many Western European countries. Most of the recent infections have been amongst the country’s coal miners in the southern Silesia region. Poland began lifting restrictions on 20 April, when parks and forests were allowed to reopen.

  • Hotels, shops, shopping centres, museums and galleries reopened on 4 May, with one customer per 15 sq m of space allowed
  • Face coverings in public will remain obligatory until a vaccine is available
  • Restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and beauty salons reopened from 18 May
  • Primary schools reopened on 25 May, but only for the youngest children, and final-year university students were also allowed back to class

Sweden: Strict measures never imposed

There was no compulsory lockdown in Sweden, unlike the measures seen elsewhere in Europe. But in line with government advice, most people took to voluntary social distancing and working from home.

  • Restaurants bars schools and businesses remained opened. But it did ban gatherings of more than 50 people
  • Sweden has recorded over 3,600 deaths, the highest per capita number in the Nordic region

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