Countries around the world are wondering when and how to ease coronavirus lockdowns, though the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that should be done slowly and only when there is capacity to isolate cases and trace contacts.
Following is a summary of steps taken or considered by the most affected nations. (For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
ITALY, with the most COVID-19-linked deaths in Europe, lifted restrictions on two categories of shops – stationers and children’s clothes – on April 14 and the government is due to present further easing steps by April 24 that would apply from May 4.
SPAIN’s lockdown is due to apply until May 9, with some easing, under an “asymmetric” exit lockdown phase for some regions or groups from April 27.
FRANCE and BRITAIN, the two other European countries with more than 10,000 deaths, are keeping curbs in place into next month. French President Emmanuel Macron said schools and shops would gradually re-open from May 11, but restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas would remain shut for longer. British lockdown measures have been extended until at least May 7.
GERMANY, Europe’s largest economy, allowed stores of up to 800 square metres, car dealers and bike shops to reopen on April 20, while schools will reopen on May 4. The government and heads of 16 German states will discuss how to proceed further on April 30.
AUSTRIA let non-essential shops of up to 400 square metres, DIY shops and garden centres reopen on April 14. Shopping malls, hairdressers and larger stores should reopen from May 1, unless infections accelerate. Restaurants and hotels will re-open in mid-May at the earliest, and no public events will be held until at least late June.
DENMARK, one of the first European countries to shut down, reopened care centres and schools for children in first to fifth grade on April 15. All other curbs apply at least until May 10.
POLAND eased restrictions on stores from April 19 and reopened beaches, parks and forests to the public. Borders will remain closed until May 3.
UNITED STATES, CANADA & LATIN AMERICA
The UNITED STATES, which has the world’s highest infections and deaths, is inching towards a gradual resumption of business. On April 17, President Donald Trump unveiled a three-stage process for states to end shutdowns, a plan which is a set of recommendations for state governors, not orders.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the hardest hit, said on April 20 that restrictions must be lifted in a way that prevents further outbreaks.
CANADA will need to keep strict physical distancing in place, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on April 19.
Lockdowns are set to continue in BRAZIL’s largest cities and most states, with Sao Paulo extending its social distancing measures until April 22 and Rio de Janeiro until April 30, despite President Jair Bolsonaro’s repeated calls to end stay-at-home orders that he said were hurting the economy.
ARGENTINA’s lockdown has been extended until April 26, but the government is considering widening the list of essential services to allow some businesses back.
MEXICO, bracing for the spread of the coronavirus to accelerate, is widely expected to extend the shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses beyond April 30.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
IRAN, the region’s worst-hit country, lifted a ban on travel within provinces on Sunday, with shopping malls and bazaars reopening on April 20.
Businesses seen as lower risk have also been allowed to reopen.
SAUDI ARABIA has halted year-round pilgrimages to Mecca and extended a nationwide lockdown indefinitely last week. Riyadh on April 20 extended the suspension of praying in the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque during the fasting month of Ramadan.
EGYPT, the Arab world’s most populous nation, extended a curfew until April 23, closed places of worship, schools and tourist sites and banned public religious gatherings during Ramadan, starting late April.
ISRAEL gradually eased its coronavirus lockdown from April 19 by letting some businesses reopen and relaxing curbs on movement after a slowdown in infection rates.
SOUTH AFRICA has extended a complete lockdown until the end of April and said key sectors could be reopened gradually under “strictly controlled conditions”.
NIGERIA extended the lockdown of the states of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun until April 27, exempting only critical workers. Most large African nations so far have no plans to ease restrictions.
CHINA earlier this month lifted the lockdown of Wuhan, where the outbreak began. On April 15, the city’s vice mayor said it aimed to fully restore rail, flight and freight operations by the end of April. Prevention measures remain elsewhere, including Beijing. Now Beijing is in talks with some countries, including Singapore, for fast-track entry by business and technical visitors on urgent tasks.
In INDIA, some shops and businesses opened in rural areas on April 20, with some activities, including factories and farming, allowed in the hinterland. National curbs are in force until May 3.
PAKISTAN, in lockdown until late April, said some industries would reopen in phases, starting with construction and export industries, such as garments. The country has lifted restrictions on congregational prayers at mosques, but introduced a host of safety conditions ahead of Ramadan.
JAPAN’s state of emergency, expanded nationwide on April 16, will last until May 6 to reduce traffic during the Golden Week holiday season around the start of May.
SOUTH KOREA, lauded for controlling its outbreak, extended its social distancing policy for another 16 days on April 19, but offered some relief for churches and sporting fixtures.
TAIWAN, another example of a successful early response, has avoided full lockdown but continues to promote social distancing.
SINGAPORE will extend a partial lockdown until June 1, as the city-state has seen a recent sharp jump in cases.
NEW ZEALAND will extend the lockdown measures by a week, the prime minister said on April 20, after which it will move to a lower level of restrictions.
Similar social distancing rules that have closed businesses and confined people to their homes remain in place in AUSTRALIA with no definite end date announced and Prime Minister Scott Morrison warning public life could remain constrained for another year.