Coronavirus: Which European countries are easing their COVID-19 lockdowns?

Ross McGuinness
·4-min read
ROME, ITALY - APRIL 27: People leave the San Giovanni metro station during an ATAC (Public transport agency of Rome) test scenario, to experiment with social distance and the maximum entry of 30 people on trains, during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, on April 27, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Italy will remain on lockdown until May 4th to stem the transmission of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), but some industries are being allowed to reopen. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)
People leave the San Giovanni Metro station in Rome, Italy, during a social distancing test scenario on Monday (Getty Images)

The UK government has maintained that now is not the time to begin easing its coronavirus restrictions.

On Monday, in his first speech since being hospitalised with COVID-19, Boris Johnson warned of a “huge loss of life” if the lockdown is lifted too soon.

In the UK, the government’s “stay at home” measures mean people can only leave their homes for food, health reasons, one form or exercise, or work (but only if they cannot work from home).

The government has rejected calls to publish a “lockdown exit strategy” as the death toll in hospitals passed the 20,000 mark.

However, across Europe, many nations have either started to ease their social distancing restrictions or have laid out plans to do so.


Seven weeks into a strict lockdown, prime minister Giuseppe Conte has laid out a timetable for getting back to normal.

He announced that factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures in place against the virus.

Conte also said that starting from 4 May, parks and gardens will reopen, funerals will be allowed, athletes can resume training, and people will be able to visit relatives living in the same region.

If all goes well, stores and museums will reopen on 18 May, with restaurants, cafes and salons to follow at the start of June.


Children have been allowed to go outside for the first time in six weeks.

After 44 days in seclusion, children under 14 were allowed out with one parent for up to an hour on Sunday, as long as they stayed within 1km (0.6 miles) of their homes, took only one toy and did not play with others.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez is due to present a detailed plan for the “de-escalation” of the country’s lockdown, but said the scheme would be cautious.

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The French government is preparing to ease its severe lockdown, with prime minister Édouard Philippe due to present a strategy to parliament on Tuesday.

PARIS, April 26, 2020 .Photo taken on April 26, 2020 shows an empty subway train in Paris, France. France saw COVID-19 deaths rose by 242 to 22,856 as of Sunday, the lowest daily increase this week, bringing relief to the health system of the country which is planning to lift the lockdown on May 11, data from the Health Ministry showed. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
An empty Metro train in Paris, France, on Sunday, as people adhere to coronavirus measures. (Getty Images)

The government has had teams of experts working on finding a balance between restarting the economy without provoking a second surge of COVID-19 infections that could overwhelm intensive care units.

President Emmanuel Macron had already announced that France's lockdown, in place since 17 March and among the strictest in Europe, would begin to ease from 11 May.


Last week, Germany took the first steps towards easing its lockdown by allow smaller shops to reopen.

Following a four-week shutdown, small shops with a surface area of up to 800 square metres (8,600 square feet) were reopened, along with car showrooms, bike shops and bookshops of any size, while pupils were able to return to school to sit exams.

Social distancing rules will remain in place until at least 3 May, and schools will gradually reopen from the following day. Large public gatherings will remain banned until the end of August.

Andreas Michaelis, Germany's foreign minister, told BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that it is considering using phone-tracking apps to trace COVID-19 cases.

Germans now have to wear face masks on public transport.

Watch the video below


Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to tell the Greek people later this week of his nation’s gradual relaxation of social distancing measures.

It has been reported that Greece will begin lifting restrictions from 4 May. This will include the opening of small shops, as well as beauty salons and hairdressers.

Schools would reopen from 11 May and restaurants and cafes two weeks later.


At the weekend, Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès announced a plan to ease the nation’s restrictions, which were introduced on 14 March.

All shops will be allowed to reopen from 11 May and schools will reopen the following week, but there will be a cap on the number of pupils in each class.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - APRIL 26: Despite lockdown measures people enjoy La Cambre Abbey (Abbaye de La Cambre - Abdij Ter Kameren) on April 26, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. The Belgium government have announced measures asking all citizens to stay at home and non-essential shops to close. On Saturday April 25, 809 new cases were reported. The total number of confirmed cases is 46,134. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
People enjoy La Cambre Abbey in Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday despite lockdown measures. (Getty Images)

Restaurants and cafes will not be allowed to reopen before 8 June.

All Belgians aged 12 and over and required to wear face masks on public transport.


Restrictions are being relaxed, with stores with a surface of up to 2,500 square metres (26,900 square feet) being allowed to open.

Zoos and botanical parks, fitness centres and driving schools are back to business. Public gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed, up from two.

The government rules on social distancing and mandatory face masks remain in place.

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