Europe relaxes lockdown; cases flare elsewhere

Europe relaxes lockdown; cases flare elsewhere
A family from Neuwied enjoy breakfast in a bakery at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany after a month of nationwide lockdown on Friday.
Berlin, May 15 (AP) | Publish Date: 5/15/2020 9:27:34 AM IST

Germany and several other European countries where the coronavirus spread has slowed were moving ahead Friday with relaxing border restrictions, while flare-ups in Mexico and elsewhere served as a reminder the pandemic is far from over.

Slovenia, which has been gradually easing strict lockdown measures, declared that the spread of the virus is now under control and that European Union residents could now enter from Austria, Italy and Hungary.

Germany, meantime, was preparing to open its border entirely with Luxembourg at midnight, and increase the number of crossings open from France, Switzerland and Austria. Travellers will still need to demonstrate a “valid reason” to enter Germany and there will be spot checks, but the goal is to restore free travel by June 15.

Germany’s states have also agreed to drop a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers entering from the European Union and several other European countries, including Britain, said Armin Laschet, the governor of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

In northern Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania removed travel restrictions between the Baltic nations, which Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas called “another step toward normal life.” 

Austria and Switzerland were also moving ahead with easing some border restrictions, and Austria reopened all cafes and restaurants.

Restaurants were reopening in more German states Friday as well, and the country was to resume professional soccer on Saturday after a two-month hiatus.

In Sydney, many cafes and restaurants opened again Friday as New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, granted permission for them, as well as places of worship, to reopen with up to 10 people so long as distancing rules are in place.

Many Catholic churches across the state opened for private prayer, confession and small-scale Masses.

In Japan, some schools, restaurants and other businesses started to reopen after the country lifted its national coronavirus emergency, while keeping in place restrictions in limited urban areas like Tokyo where risks remain.

As countries move ahead with relaxing restrictions, the head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office, Hans Kluge, warned that distancing guidance and other protective measures were more important than ever.

Worldwide, there have been more than 4.4 million coronavirus infections reported and 300,000 deaths, while nearly 1.6 million people have recovered according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Somalia’s official death toll hit 53, but aid groups and authorities say that figure could be far too low in a country with one of the world’s weakest health systems, after three decades of civil war.

Ahead of Mexico’s plan to partially reopen key industries such as mining, construction and auto plants on May 18, authorities sounded a note of concern as the country reported its largest one-day rise in coronavirus case numbers.

There were 2,409 new COVID-19 test confirmations Thursday, the first time that number has exceeded 2,000 in one day.

Deaths have neared 4,500 and there were signs that hospital capacity was nearing its limit in Mexico City, the hardest-hit area. 

In Brazil, news website G1 reported that 900 people in Rio de Janeiro were waiting for an intensive-care bed in one of the state’s overwhelmed units. 

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