Madrid Desk, May 11 (efe-epa).- European nations on Monday were easing lockdown measures with Spain, Greece and Germany tentatively preparing for a new normal after registering a decline in Covid-19 caseloads and deaths.
Several provinces launched Phase 1 of the country’s lockdown de-escalation measures which will see bars and restaurants reopen with limited capacity and adhering to strict hygiene measures and social distancing.
Churches will also open operating at a third of capacity as well as small shops which will open on appointment only.
Around half of Spain’s population will be able to meet with family and friends in gatherings limited to 10 people, as of Monday.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged citizens to act sensibly: “I ask you to show the greatest precaution and prudence (because) the virus has not gone away, it is still there.”
The country’s hotspots in Madrid and Barcelona remain in Phase 0 and have submitted proposals to the government on Monday to start easing measures which, if approved, would start on 18 May.
Granada and Málaga, in the south, and Valencia, in the east, will also continue with full confinement rules.
The daily death toll dropped to 123 in the last 24 hours and authorities recorded the lowest number of infections since 9 March with 373 cases, the Health Ministry reported.
So far, 26,744 people have died out of a total of 227,426 cases, the second highest number of cases behind the United States. Over 136,000 have recovered.
Germany reopened schools, shops and group sports activities on Monday although different regions continue to emerge from their lockdowns at a different pace according to infection rates.
The most recent data from the Robert Koch Institut (RKI) was cause for some concern as the virus’ reproduction factor (R) – which indicates the rate of contagion from an infected person to another – had risen above 1.
“R is one of several figures to assess the pandemic. We take the fact R has risen again seriously, but it cannot be concluded that we are again in an uncontrolled situation,” Health Ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz said.
Kautz denied that the spike was due to an easing of the lockdown because measures only came into effect on Monday.
In most states, the limit set on the reopening of shops to less than 800 square was lifted on Monday. Restrictions on the number of customers remain in place and face masks in all indoor public places are compulsory, as is maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 meters from other people.
Meetings between two families or households will be permitted and tanning salons, tattoo studios and beauty salons will also reopen their doors.
Schools have adopted a staggered return to class and students still stay at home on some days of the week, with federal states allowed some discretion as to what extent they will welcome pupils back to class.
Federal state ministers and Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed on a safety net that would see regions reverse an easing of restrictions in the event of a major spike in infections.
This has already happened in four municipalities, the most disputed in Coesfeld (west) where there was an outbreak in the shared accommodation of workers from a meat factory plant.