One of the most pressing questions vexing governments around the world is how to reopen an economy that’s been on total lockdown. Leaders must weigh up the costs of a complete economic shutdown compared to lives saved in the short term.
As COVID-19 continues to rage across the world, a clutch of countries are now gingerly re-opening their economies. Here’s a look at how some nations are approaching lifting lockdowns.
Bahrain announced on April 9 that shopping malls and some stores would reopen, though workers and shoppers would be required to wear masks while inside the stores. Anyone in a public place must wear a facemask.
Retailers must also control the number or people in stores to prevent overcrowding and ensure that surfaces are disinfected regularly.
Gyms, public swimming pools, shisha cafes, beauty parlors, and entertainment parks will remain closed until April 23.
Supermarkets and food stores must still designate their first opening hour to the elderly and pregnant women to minimize their risk of infection.
Public gatherings over more than five people are also prohibited, and everyone is urged to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
As of Monday, the country had 1,361 cases and six deaths, according to Reuters figures.
Iran reopened government offices outside the capital, with a third of employees working from home, on Saturday after a brief lockdown that lasted a week. Businesses outside the capital also reopened on April 11.
In Tehran, businesses are allowed to reopen next Saturday, as long as they register with the authorities and follow guidelines on social distancing. Government offices in the capital will reopen with two-thirds of employees coming to work.
In Iran, 73,303 have been infected by coronavirus, and 4,585 have died.
On Monday, the government lifted some of the restrictions put in place on March 27, and allowed businesses whose employees cannot work remotely to reopen.
Manufacturing, construction, and some service workers are allowed to return to their jobs, but they must adhere to strict safety guidelines.
Officials also intend to distribute 10 million face masks on public transport.
Almost 17,500 people with COVID-19 have died in Spain, but the rate of new infections has been falling.
"We are still far from victory, from the moment when we will recover normality in our lives," Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said over the weekend.
"We are all keen to go back out on the streets... but our desire is even greater to win the war and prevent a relapse," he added.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Friday he was extending Italy’s nationwide lockdown until May 3, despite widespread calls from businesses and opposition politicians to restart the economy.
Italy – which has seen more than 20,000 deaths – will only allow a narrow range of firms to resume operations on Tuesday.
The Veneto region is easing some measures, including reopening outdoor markets and allowing jogging more than 200 meters away from home, Governor Luca Zaia said on Facebook.
“We need to guarantee health safety but, at the same time, to make efforts to accelerate the re-opening,” former Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said in an interview to SkyTG24.
However, schools might not restart before the summer break. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s public health institute, told Rai2 TV that he believes the government should consider leaving classrooms shut until the next school year.
Schools and day care centers are set to reopen on April 15, in what will be the first steps the country is taking to ease its lockdown rules.
Denmark went into lockdown on March 11, making it one of the first European countries to enter quarantine.
Other restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, will remain in place until at least May 10, and larger gatherings will not be permitted until August.
Denmark has reported 187 coronavirus-related deaths and total of 4,681 infected out of a population of 5.6 million.
Norway’s schools and day care centers are set to reopen on April 20, and hairdressers and other businesses will also be allowed to reopen next week.
Norway will also end its ban on families traveling to their holiday cottages on April 20.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced the move after a recent decline in the number of infections, saying, "We now have control of the virus, so we can open up the community little by little. We will do it together, controlled and over time."
Austria will reopen some shops but will widen the requirement to wear facemasks from April 14.
However, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz cautioned that an "emergency brake" might be needed if the number of infections accelerates again, which epidemiologists warn is possible if societies open up too quickly.
He said small shops, hardware stores, and garden centers, would be allowed to open but with a limited number of people allowed inside at a certain time. Larger stores will follow on May 1.
Austria, which entered lockdown on March 16, could see some restaurants, hotels, and schools reopen in mid-May.
By Monday, Austria 220 had died, and 12,297 cases of coronavirus had been reported in a population of 8.9 million people.
The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, which declared a lockdown on March 12, is looking to reopen some stores from Thursday.
Currently, supermarkets, pharmacies, and garden stores are allowed to operate.
This will be expanded to include shops selling construction materials, hobby supplies, and bicycles, according to their minister for industry and trade.
All stores will be required to have disinfectant and disposable gloves at the entrance for customers, and must ensuring that socially distancing measures are enforced.
More stores may be opened after Easter, the Czech government has said.
Seventy-eight have died in the Czech Republic, and 4,822 cases have been reported in the country of 10.7 million.
The city of Wuhan – where the pandemic began – recently emerged from 76 days of lockdown.
People were able to move about and leave the city for the first time. Residents with a government-assigned green QR code on their mobile phones – meaning they're healthy – have been allowed to go back to work as long as their employers issue them a letter.
In residential communities where no new cases have been reported for 14 days, one person per household with a green QR code can leave the compound two hours per day.
On March 25, public buses started to resume service; three days later, underground trains began running as well. Businesses and shops have gradually reopened.
However, authorities are warning that the threat of further infections is far from over. Officials continue to urge everyone to stay at home as much as possible, and schools remain closed.
Across Wuhan, nearly 94 percent of businesses have resumed operations, said Hu Yabo, the city’s deputy mayor. For major industrial enterprises, the rate exceeds 97 percent. For service companies, it was 93 percent.
The rest of China entered lockdown in early February, and a couple weeks later began to ease restrictions.