Daily Express

Europe finally emerges from its long lockdown

- By Mark Reynolds

HUNDREDS of millions of Europeans yesterday awoke to a further easing of lockdowns – despite the number of infections in the continent passing 1.5 million.

Nations led by Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherland­s all loosened restrictio­ns, with politician­s hoping the staged return to normality will not lead to a second wave of the outbreak.

Across most of France, people were yesterday allowed to walk outside for the first time in weeks without filling in a permit.

And packed commuter trains began to operate in Paris as the country eased its restrictio­ns.

In scenes that will be watched closely in the UK, images posted on social media showed large numbers pouring on and off a train at Gare du Nord station in Paris.

Rush hour on the Paris transport system was restricted to commuters with proof that they were going to work or school.

Gare du Nord is also the Eurostar hub in Paris, from which two highspeed trains were set to travel to

London yesterday. All those on French trains were required to wear masks from yesterday or face a fine equivalent to £120.

Spaniards outside Madrid and Barcelona were able to meet in bars and restaurant­s which have outdoor spaces.

Spanish people living in the same household were told they are now allowed to travel within their province in the same private vehicle, occupying all seats and without the use of masks.

Spain’s first phase of the release, following on from phase zero introduced on May 4, also allowed the reopening of the terraces of bars and restaurant­s, but only at 50 per cent capacity.

Hotels will also now be allowed to reopen, provided that common areas are sealed off.

They have all been closed since at least March 14, when Spain imposed its state of emergency.

Churches in Spain can also now partially open, as well as museums and outdoor markets.

Social gatherings of family and friends of up to 10 people will also be allowed in Spain and some cultural events can go ahead. All will be governed by social distancing and strict health regulation­s.

In total, there will be four stages to the unlock, finishing towards the end of June.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the start of the “new norm” will have been reached by then.

France and the Netherland­s also partially re-opened primary schools yesterday, while shopping centres in Denmark and hotels in Poland will be allowed to throw open their doors later this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged caution as primary schools were allowed to restart with small numbers of pupils. But he warned that yesterday was just “the start of a new phase”.

Mr Macron said: “It will be progressiv­e and the rules can be adapted according to our results.”

Across France, clothes shops, bookshops, hair salons and florists also reopened. But restaurant­s, cinemas and bars will remain shut for now.

In Belgium, most businesses were also reopening yesterday, albeit with social distancing. But again, restaurant­s, bars and cafes will stay closed.

In the Netherland­s, primary schools also partially reopened, with libraries, physiother­apists, driving schools and hairdresse­rs also reopening. In Switzerlan­d, both primary and middle schools reopened yesterday but classes will be reduced in size.

Restaurant­s, bookshops and museums were also allowed to open but with certain restrictio­ns.

Other European countries, such as Germany, Austria and Italy, have also begun easing their restrictio­ns.

Germany has seen a rise in infections since the start of the unlock, with authoritie­s in the 16 states keeping a close eye on the situation.

But the mass unlock comes as the number of cases of coronaviru­s remains high in the EU.

While the US has the highest number of confirmed infections with 1.3 million, Europe as a whole exceeds that tally at more than 1.5 million.

The UK tops the European list in terms of deaths, while Spain has the highest number of infections.

Spain currently has 224,350 cases with 26,621 deaths, while the UK has 220,449 cases with 31,930 fatalities. Then comes Italy with 219,070 cases and 30,560 deaths, Russia with 209,688 cases and 1,915 fatalities and France with 177,094 cases and 26,383 deaths.

The numbers are only the confirmed cases and deaths. Different countries have different testing and recording guidelines.

 ??  ?? Commute... back to work in Paris. Inset, hand cleaning
Commute... back to work in Paris. Inset, hand cleaning
 ??  ?? Fresh start... streets of Brussels are cleaned
Fresh start... streets of Brussels are cleaned
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Macron...‘the rules can be adapted’
Macron...‘the rules can be adapted’

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