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Explainer: Lockdown Relaxations across the World

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Various countries across the world have begun to announce phase-wise relaxation from the lockdown & curfews. Here is a brief summary about the relaxation plans of various countries around the world.

In Factly’s earlier article, we looked at lockdown measures across the world in detail. The date of announcement of lockdown measures in different countries along with the nature of their lockdowns was highlighted. In this article, let’s look at how different countries plan to gradually lift or re-impose lockdowns in the coming days.

As countries seek to get businesses and industries going again, the World Health Organization (WHO) is giving advice and warnings over the easing of coronavirus lockdowns. The organisation has warned that it should be done slowly and only when there is capacity to isolate cases and trace contacts.

Most countries plan to gradually lift the lockdown and their crucial decisions are based on the condition that their COVID-19 infection rate becomes stable in the coming days. While a variety of relaxations are being announced across the world, wearing of masks has been prescribed as mandatory in all public spaces.

Asia-Pacific

In China, authorities have been easing restrictions gradually and regionally. From end March itself, authorities had begun easing Wuhan’s lockdown after the infection rate dropped, allowing people from certified ‘epidemic-free’ residential compounds out of their homes for two hours a day. Travel restrictions were also eased in Hubei province and in other parts as well. Public transport has been reinstated but schools remain closed. In China’s other regions and cities, where the outbreak was less severe, many factories, shops and restaurants have been open, although office workers have continued to work from home where possible.

India is under lockdown until 03 May, but conditional relaxations in certain selected sectors have come into effect. The government had announced allowing some industries, such as farming and construction in rural areas, to open after 20 April.  Various agricultural and commercial shops can now operate during the lockdown. What happens after 03 May, remains to be seen.

Pakistan, which extended its shutdown to end of April, has announced that some industries would reopen in phases. This will start with construction and export industries, such as garments.

In Japan, a month-long state of emergency has been in force in cities since 07 April, but nationwide businesses have been allowed to operate during the lockdown.

Singapore aimed to relax restrictions to allow for schools and most workplaces to reopen on 04 May, but the country has decided to extend it to 01 June.

New Zealand has no immediate easing plans with schools, restaurants, cafes and gyms. Similarly, Australia has not announced any definite end date for lockdown or relaxations.

Countries like South Korea and Taiwan have avoided full lockdown but continue to promote social distancing.

United States, Canada & Latin America

The United States is moving toward a gradual resumption of business. New York Governor announced that they would begin with reopening the most essential businesses and those with the lowest infection risk. However, some governors have warned there was no return to a pre-pandemic ‘normal’ until a vaccine becomes available.

Canada has announced to keep non-essential businesses shut for several more weeks. The lockdown was extended for another 28 days in some provinces after it was due to expire on 23 April.

In Argentina, the government is considering widening the list of essential services to allow some businesses back.

In Brazil and Mexico, lockdowns are set to continue till April end. Further announcements are awaited.

Middle East and Africa

In Iran, social distancing measures were eased from 11 April to allow ‘low-risk’ business activity to resume. The suspension of ‘high-risk activities’ – schools, universities and various social, cultural, sports and religious events – has not been relaxed yet.

Saudi Arabia has stopped year-round pilgrimages to Mecca and extended a nationwide lockdown indefinitely.

Egypt has closed places of worship, schools and tourist sites and banned public religious gatherings during the month of Ramadan.

Israel keeps ‘stay-at-home’ orders for all except those who work in vital industries and said any exit strategy will be ‘slow and responsible’.

South Africa has extended a complete lockdown until the end of April and said key sectors could be reopened gradually under ‘strictly controlled conditions’.

Nigeria has also extended the lockdown of the states of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun until end of April, exempting only critical workers. Most large African nations so far have no plans to ease restrictions.

Europe

France has presented plans to unwind a nationwide lockdown starting 11 May, but only if the rate of infections stays below 3,000 per day. The plan would see non-essential shops reopen. Schools would also gradually reopen — starting with primary schools and kindergartens, with high schools to follow from 18 May. The Paris metro would be operating at around 70% capacity, but people would be encouraged to continue working from home.

In Italy, a series of restrictions will be lifted on 04 May, allowing people to move around their own regions. More restrictions will be lifted on 18 May and 01 June, to get the economy going. They also announced that bars and restaurants would only be allowed to reopen 01 June, onwards. Schools are to remain closed until after the summer holidays, reopening in September.

In Belgium, a plan for a progressive lockdown relaxation similar to Italy’s strategy has been presented. During the first phase (starting 04 May), an increased number of public transport vehicles will be in use. Shops will be closed initially, except those of a business-to-business nature. People will be allowed to engage in sports activities with two other people who do not belong to the same household. During the next stage, (starting  11 May), all shops will be allowed to reopen while adhering to strict guidelines. Hairdressers will follow on 18 May, which is also the date from which school education will progressively return back to normal. Working from home is to remain the norm.

Spain has announced that if the number of COVID-19 cases remains stable, citizens will be able to go out with others from the same household from 02 May. Right now, strict rules are still in place for citizens. They can only leave the house for a maximum of one hour between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm and must remain within a 1-kilometer (about half a mile) radius of home. A maximum of three children per household are allowed out at one time, with only one parent.

Norway declared that it aims to have all school children back in their classes in a suitable way until summer. Students aged 6 to 10 are back in their classrooms and nursery schools are also open now. Those children who belong to a risk group continue to receive online education.

In Slovenia, hardware stores, shops selling technical goods and furniture are now open again, as well as dry cleaners, garages and repair shops. Hair salons, beauty parlours and shops with a selling space of less than 400 square meters, however, will only be allowed to reopen by the end of April with due considerations.

In Netherlands, day-care centers and elementary schools will re-open on 11 May, and secondary schools are to follow on 01 June. Initially, children are to be given lessons in small groups only. Children and adolescents are again allowed to engage in sports activity in clubs. All other bans, however, have been extended by up to 1st  week of May. Large events such as festivals and sports competitions will continue to be banned until 01 September.

In Austria, a large number of shops have reopened by end of April. The next stage will follow at the beginning of May; mid-May is to see the reopening of restaurants, cafes and bars, with limited business hours. Day-care centers and schools have been permanently open for those children who cannot be looked after otherwise.

In Turkey, the curfew expired on 26 April and people are now allowed to leave their homes again. During the month of Ramadan, there is a ban on fast breaking in groups. 

In Switzerland, starting 27 April, hair salons, beauty parlours, hardware stores, and gardening shops are allowed to receive customers again. If the number of infections does not increase significantly, vocational schools, universities, museums, libraries and zoos will be open again from 08 June.

In Denmark, outdoor activities are still allowed. However, a ban is in force against gatherings of more than 10 people – provisionally until 10 May.

In Portugal, stores and businesses would gradually be able to reopen 02 May onwards if there is a slowdown in the spread of the virus.

Countries like Greece, Poland and United Kingdom have yet not announced their plans about relaxations or lifting of the current lockdown. However, like most countries, their return to normalcy has been announced to take place in a slow and gradual manner during May and June and be reviewed on a regular basis.


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