How relaxing lockdown rules has impacted Europe

Millions of Europeans are welcoming the easing of stay-at-home orders, as countries across the Continent take tentative steps towards lifting lockdowns. Officials will be monitoring the impact of the relaxations, with leaders ready to hit the pause button if coronavirus infection rates begin to climb once again in their countries. Stores of all sizes have been permitted to open their doors since last week, and schools have been partially reopened for young children and those taking exams. The government has also granted permission for people from two separate households to meet up with each other, but big public events such as festivals and concerts will remain banned until at least the end of August. ____________________________________________________  More on coronavirus: ____________________________________________________ However, Bundesliga football matches will restart behind closed doors on 16 May - the first of the major European leagues to kick off since the pandemic suspended team sports across the Continent. The R value reached around 1.1 in Germany on Saturday, but officials warned of “insecurities” in predicting a long-term trend, reports Deutsche Welle. Four “red zones” - including Paris - will remain under a stricter lockdown, with parks, gardens and schools for children aged between 11 and 18 staying shut. But, crucially, the value remains below 1 - and “officials are not solely relying on the R, instead reviewing several indicators to decide when to loosen restrictions,” says The Telegraph. After implementing one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe, the Spanish authorities began a phased lifting of the measures on 4 May. Restrictions will continue be eased in two-week blocks until 10 June, but the plan may be paused or reversed if cases spike. Churches and mosques can also open at partial capacity as of this week, and groups of up to ten people are allowed to meet in homes or outdoors - to the delight of many. Weddings, baptisms and small social gatherings will be allowed from 20 July, but only for family and close friends, reports the BBC. Over the border in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster announced that the R value in her country is currently at around 0.8 or 0.9, reports The Irish News. However, as the outbreak in Italy eases, the authorities have lifted earlier measures preventing people going more than 200m from their homes. Restaurants, bars, schools and businesses have remained open throughout the pandemic, although a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people was introduced in late March. And while the Swedish economy has weathered the coronavirus storm better than most so far, experts say that may not prove to be the case in the long term. “Early figures for Sweden’s gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2020, released this week, suggested that at least in March it had performed better than much of the EU as it recorded a decline of just 0.3%, compared with a 3.8% fall for the eurozone,” reports the Financial Times. “But economists argue that Sweden is unlikely in the long term to escape the severe economic pain of the rest of Europe.