Madrid Desk, May 25 (efe-epa).- Restrictions in Italy, the first country in Europe to become a hotspot for the coronavirus, were further eased on Monday, as gyms and other exercise centers reopened.
Elsewhere on the continent, countries that have been less affected by the pandemic, such as Germany and the Czech Republic, also continued with their respective de-escalation of restrictions ahead of the summer, the high season for the flagging tourism sector.
People across Italy, except the former hotspots of Lombardy and Basilicata, on Monday were once again allowed to go to the gym and swimming pools, although strict hygiene and social distancing measures to prevent a second Covid-19 outbreak will remain in force.
The regions of Veneto, Sicily and Liguria had already resumed activities on 18 May but Lombardy, which continues to record over half of new infections in the country, as well as the southern region of Basilicata and some cities such as Bologna and Palermo, will have to wait until at least 31 May to reopen.
With approximately 100,000 private sports centres and nearly 20 million users across the country, the sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, haemorrhaging 3 billion euros with each centre netting between 50 and 60 percent less than last year, according to trade union figures.
Security measures affecting the fitness sector are much more rigid than for other activities. The number of clients has been restricted and disinfection protocols between uses and classes are mandatory, while social distancing of two meters will also be enforced during workouts by limiting capacity and rearranging machines if needed.
Changing rooms and showers must guarantee a distance of one-meter between people at all times as well as ensuring spaces are separated with barriers and that access to them is regulated.
Two states in the eastern part of the country, which have been less affected by coronavirus than other regions, have said they will speed up the easing of restrictions rather than follow guidelines set by the federal government.
Authorities in Saxony and Thuringia said that they will reopen public activities, announcements that coincide with the start of the tourist high season, a sector which is expected to suffer catastrophic losses this year due to the restrictions on people’s movements and gatherings in public places such as bars and restaurants.
The two states have reported fewer cases than others in the country, which has managed to overcome the initial wave of Covid-19 cases while keeping mortality and infection rates low.
The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Monday that Germany’s R number, which measures how many other people a person with coronavirus will infect, was at 0.89
Despite the relatively positive outlook, the government of Angela Merkel has urged a cautious reopening of public life.
In an illustration of the dangers of reopening too soon, some 107 new coronavirus cases were reported last week in Frankfurt. All of those infections were traced to a religious service held on May 10, after the toughest restrictions had been eased.
Health authorities are also investigating whether hygiene measures were followed after an outbreak was registered in a restaurant in Leer, where 14 people tested positive after visiting the same premises, while another 118 are in quarantine.
The Czech Republic entered the last phase of its de-escalation of restrictions, as swimming pools and enclosed areas at hotels, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen.
The use of face masks in public places was also no longer mandatory, although most people on the streets of Prague on Monday were still wearing the coverings.
Since the start of the pandemic, authorities in the Czech Republic, which has also managed to contain the outbreak, have urged the use of masks as a precautionary measure.