Multiple European countries take steps to relax coronavirus rules

Scores of European countries further relaxed  coronavirus restrictions on Monday, with experts the world over – and residents of those countries affected – waiting to see if they strike the right balance between safety and openness.

We take a look at some of the changes, although this is by no means a comprehensive list.

In Austria, some 100,000 final-year students returned to vocational and high-schools for the first time since mid-March.

Also on Monday, elderly people in care homes were allowed to receive visitors again, although some restrictions remain in place.

In Belgium, working from home remains the norm, but some industrial and business-to-business firms needing their employees to be on site resumed activities with precautionary measures in place.

Fabric shops were allowed to open because of their role in the production of masks.

More public transport began running, and Belgians are now allowed to do sports with two people from outside their households, within a prescribed distance.

In Croatia, small businesses, including hair and beauty salons, reopened under instruction to respect health guidelines. Other, larger shops will have to wait a week.

Courts reopened in Cyprus on Monday, although under strict guidelines.

Retail shops and hardware stores also reopened.

However, people are still expected to respect a 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. (2100 – 0300 GMT) curfew.

Germans began going to the hairdresser from Monday under strict hygiene rules, while more pupils were allowed to return to class as several states gradually lifted restrictions on schools.

Across most of Germany, where restrictions vary by region due to the federal division of powers, social-distancing measures remain in place, limiting people to meeting in pairs outdoors at a distance of 1.5 metres, or with people from their own household.

But the central state of Saxony-Anhalt, which has seen relatively few cases, is easing those rules from Monday, allowing people to meet in groups of up to five.

Meanwhile in Greece, failure to wear a mask on public transportation, in hospitals or at doctors’ offices is punishable by a fine.

However, hair salons, electronic goods stores and bookshops reopened.

Although people can once again leave their homes and move freely, there are limits.

People are expected to stay within their local districts. Island residents are not allowed to visit the mainland for now

Social distancing and face masks are still required in Hungary, but many of the restrictions on residents were lifted on Monday – for people who don’t live in Budapest.

The health situation in the capital remains dangerous and restrictions still apply.

In Iceland, universities and high schools opened, but with restrictions.

Students are required to maintain two metres apart, as have schoolchildren between six and 15 years old.

That rule is also in force in  kindergartens, which have remained open during the shutdown.

The ban on public gatherings was also eased.

Up to 50 people can now gather. Previously the limit was 20.

Small firms, including beauty parlours and hairdressers, were allowed to resume work.

The government of Finland said on Monday that it would ease restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather from 10 to 50 people from June 1, and allow libraries and museums to reopen.

According to Li Andersson, Finland’s minister of education, universities and high schools have been advised to continue with remote schooling until the end of the spring term.

Primary and lower secondary schools will reopen from May 14.

Schools have been open for the three lowest grades.

Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen gradually at some point in June, but legislation to put that into effect is pending.

On Monday, the construction and manufacturing sectors resumed activities.

Bars and restaurants reopened, but only for takeaway service.

Hence, people can do more outdoor exercise and visit their loved ones, but there has been confusion about who falls under that category.

Parks and cemeteries reopened on Monday, and funerals took place with small congregations.

The government has promised further openings this month if the curve of infections stays low.

Similarly, several restrictions have already been lifted in the Baltic country of Lithuania.

On Monday, borders opened for residents who want to travel, but the opening doesn’t work both ways.

Outsiders who want to enter Lithuania still have to wait.

Air and sea travel does not resume until May 10.

The first airlines – among them Germany’s Lufthansa – announced that flights to Lithuania would start again in mid-May.

The case is no different in Luxembourg where the government is to allow up to 20 people to gather outside by May 11, as long as they follow social-distancing guidelines.

Groups of up to six may gather indoors. Most smaller shops are to be able to reopen from that date too, as can hairdressers if their customers make appointments.

Each citizen is to be sent 50 protective face masks by post – as will commuters from neighbouring parts of France, Germany, and Belgium.

The government hopes cafes and restaurants can reopen as of June 1.

However, indoor playgrounds, cinemas, and bowling alleys are to stay closed for now.

Poland reopened hotels and shopping centres, as long as a rule of one person per 15 square metres of retail surface is adhered to.

Food courts, fitness centres and playgrounds in those centres remained closed, but libraries and museums reopened.

Hotels reopened on the condition that they would comply with safety rules, just as hotel swimming pools and fitness centres remained closed.

Bulgaria was not left out of efforts to ease the lockdown measures imposed by the government as outdoor sport is now allowed in the form of tennis, cycling, athletics, and golf.

Swimming pools in fitness centres are allowed to open, although the rest of the centre must remain closed.

Driving schools have reopened though.

Open-air restaurants, and the terraces of restaurants and cafes, are to reopen under strict conditions from Wednesday.

The ban on road travel to and from the capital, Sofia, is also to be lifted on Wednesday.

In Spain, small businesses, such as hairdressers, opened on an appointment-only basis.

Customers can now collect from restaurants, food that they have ordered in advance.

The measures represent the first phase of a four-phase operation to remove restrictions.

Four islands – El Hierro, La Graciosa, and La Gomera in the Canaries and Formentera in the Balearics – were allowed to skip phase one as they have not been as badly affected as the rest of the country.

There, the first businesses and smaller markets have begun to open, as have open-air restaurants and cafes.

The rest of Spain is to begin phase two on May 11.


In Portugal, small businesses with a shop floor of up to 200 square metres, among them bookshops, hairdressers and shoe shops, have reopened, as have car dealerships.

A mask requirement remains on public transport and in shops.

Outdoor sport is allowed again, with some stretches of beach reopened for water sports like surfing.

There was bad news for Catholic pilgrims, however.

For the first time in more than 100 years, there will be no pilgrimage to the central Portuguese town of Fatima, after the rector of the shrine there made the “painful” decision to cancel.

The second phase of Portugal’s three-phase plan to relax restrictions begins on May 18.

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