Coronavirus: European countries set to further relax restrictions

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Most businesses in Italy reopened on Monday

Italy and Spain are among a number of European countries that are further easing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions from Monday.

Most businesses in Italy, including bars and hairdressers, will be free to reopen after more than two months of nationwide lockdown measures.

Spain is set to relax its restrictions in most of the country, with groups of up to 10 people free to meet.

The measures follow consistent drops in the number of daily recorded deaths.

On Sunday, Italy recorded the fewest daily deaths since it entered lockdown in March.

It said 145 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours. This marked a significant drop from its highest daily death toll, which was more than 900 on 27 March.

In Spain, the daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since it imposed its lockdown restrictions.

But officials are warning that complacency over the virus could lead to a second wave of infections.

What’s happening on Monday?

Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and shops will be allowed to reopen in Italy, providing social distancing is enforced.

Almost 32,000 people in Italy have died in the pandemic, and the economy is expected to shrink by nearly 10% this year.

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Media captionInside Milan’s coronavirus quarantine hotel

Catholic churches are preparing for the resumption of Mass, but there will be strict social distancing and worshippers must wear face masks. Other faiths will also be allowed to hold religious services.

But health officials have warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings.

Pope Francis held a private Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which has been disinfected ahead of its reopening to tourists.

The Mass honoured the late Pope John Paul II, 100 years after his birth in Poland.

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AFP photo/Vatican Media

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Pope Francis held a private Mass

In Spain, a majority of people will have emerged from lockdown by the end of the week.

The country has a four-phase system for reopening, which authorities are applying at different speeds in different regions.

Most of Spain is now in phase one. As of Monday up to 10 people are allowed to meet together, provided they wear masks and socially distance, while bars and restaurants can open outdoor seating at half capacity. Cinemas, museums and theatres are also opening at reduced capacity.

Barcelona, Madrid and parts of the north-west however remain in phase 0. Most restrictions will remain in place, but some small shops will be allowed to reopen on Monday and funerals can be held for groups of up to 10 inside and 15 outside. This has been dubbed “phase 0.5” – an intermediate step in these regions.

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Media captionBeach crowds as countries around the world ease lockdowns

The country is now “very close” to stopping the transmission of the virus, the head of the emergency health centre, Fernando Simon, said on Sunday.

But he warned that the risk of a second wave of cases was “still very big”.

Elsewhere in Europe:

  • Belgium is to begin reopening primary and secondary schools under strict conditions on Monday, with museums and zoos also opening their doors – albeit only to those who book online, to limit numbers
  • The famous Acropolis reopened in Greece, and secondary school pupils are returning to class
  • Restaurants, cafes and pastry shops restart business at reduced capacity in Portugal
  • Poland’s beauty salons and hairdressers reopen, as well as restaurants and cafes

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