ROME/MADRID (Reuters) – Italian shops, restaurants and churches reopened their doors to the spring sun on Monday, Greece welcomed visitors back to the Acropolis, and Spain hoped for tourists to return in summer in cautious steps to ease coronavirus lockdowns.
A couple enjoys the view with the Acropolis hill seen in the background, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Athens, Greece, April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Italians could once again sip their morning cappuccino at the bar, albeit at a distance from one another, in what Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte admitted at the weekend was a “calculated risk” in rolling back the curbs.
“I haven’t worked for two and a half months. It’s a beautiful, exciting day,” said Valentino Casanova, a barman in Caffe Canova in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo.
Countries across the world, at different stages in the pandemic, are wrangling with the decision on when to ease restrictions, weighing the threat to life and the threat to economic survival. Tourism is a major earner for Italy, Greece and Spain as the summer approaches.
More than 4.71 million people are reported to have been infected by the coronavirus globally and 312,826 have died, according to a Reuters tally, with Italy recording the third highest death toll below the United States and Britain.
In Greece, which has recorded only 156 COVID-19 deaths, people flocked to the seaside on Saturday and were allowed back in church the next day.
On Monday, tourists were allowed back at archeological sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, where workers wearing masks and plastic face shields reminded the few visitors of social distancing rules as they entered the turnstiles..
“I visited the Acropolis today, a world monument that continues to inspire with its marbles shining under the sun,” President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said.
Spain aims to reopen its borders to tourists around the end of June, Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos said on Monday, after it surprised its EU partners by imposing a two-week quarantine on all overseas travellers and effectively shutting its borders last week.
But the move was meant to be temporary and Abalos said it would be phased out in parallel with travel being allowed within Spain, whose regions are all leaving lockdown at different phases.
“From late June, we’ll start the tourism activity, I hope,” he said. “We must make Spain an attractive country from the health point of view.”
KISSING AND HUGGING
Four weeks into an early but gradual easing of their lockdown, Danes on Monday again enjoy a latte at their local café.
“The quick shutdown and the fact that Danes actually listened to messages from authorities about good hygiene and social distancing are the main reasons we’ve come this far,” said Hans Jorn Kolmos, a professor in clinical microbiology and University of Southern Denmark.
Danes being less prone to hugging and kissing as a form of greeting had also been a factor, he said.
Many people across England travelled to parks and beaches to enjoy the sun at the weekend after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson relaxed lockdown curbs. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland maintained tighter restrictions however, telling their people they should still stay at home.
Johnson’s government has come under heavy criticism from the opposition Labour Party for its perceived slow response after suffering the world’s second highest death toll.
Irish airline Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said Britain had mismanaged its response and he denounced a new 14-day quarantine for international travellers.
“It is idiotic and it is unimplementable,” O’Leary told BBC radio. “This the same government that has… mismanaged the crisis for many weeks.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has also faced criticism for a perceived haphazard approach to the crisis and his eagerness to reopen the economy despite the risks to health.
U.S. officials have pressed Mexico to get its factories open again because American operations depend heavily on parts from south of the border.
And General Motors Co is tentatively planning to restart operations at its auto assembly plant in the Mexican city of Silao on May 20, according to a message to workers seen by Reuters on Sunday.
In Brazil, which now has one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, President Jair Bolsonaro posed for photographs with children from a crowd of supporters on Sunday.
Bolsonaro’s latest flouting of public health advice came as the mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, warned that its health system was in danger of collapse, the BBC reported.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London, George Georgiopoulos and Vassilis Triandafyllou in Athens, Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro in Madrid, Crispian Balmer and Giulio Piovaccari in Rome, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Angus MacSwan