Italy and parts of Spain recorded some of their lowest coronavirus infection rates and began to significantly ease their respective lockdowns on Monday, amid signs across Europe that countries were beginning to ease their lockdowns.
In Italy, which in March became the first country in the world to surpass China’s death toll, 145 coronavirus deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, the lowest since the lockdown began.
While health officials have urged caution, the decline in infection rate means that, from Monday, a significant restart to Italian life has kicked in. Shops, salons and restaurants have all begun to reopen for customers, as long as they can find a way to comply with social distancing measures, and, for the first time since the lockdown began, Italians will again be able to drink an espresso at a counter in a bar.
Beaches and museums have also begun to open, and next week will be followed by gyms, pools and sports centers, provided they comply with safety rules, according to ANSA. Additionally, according to the schedule laid out by the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, travel will be permitted to other European countries on June 3, and to countries outside of Europe from June 15.
Italians no longer require a certificate to be outside, but they will require a new kind of document in order to move from region to region and must people must still wear masks in all closed public spaces.
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“Today the country is getting moving again but it’s still a long road and we must never lower our guard,” Conte wrote in the Italian newspaper, Leggo.
To date, Italy has recorded 225,435 coronavirus cases and 31,908 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In Spain, up to 70% of the population are in the first phase of easing the coronavirus lockdown, with the partial reopening of small businesses under strict conditions now underway. Training for professional soccer leagues will now resume for a number of teams. For the time being, bars and restaurants remain closed, and in Madrid and Barcelona the lockdown still remains in place, with restrictions on how often people can leave their houses and public gatherings still forbidden.
The easing of restrictions follows the lowest daily increase in deaths since March 16, with 87 recorded coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours preceding Sunday. In total, Spain has 230,698 recorded cases of coronavirus, and 27,563 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Over the weekend in Germany professional soccer games were played for the first time in front of empty stadiums since the suspension of their season in March.
Meanwhile, a number of tourist attractions, such as the Parthenon in Greece, the tomb and basilica of St. Frances in Assisi and churches across Europe reopened to the public.
However, Dr Hans Kluge, the regional director of the WHO in Europe, warned that for countries opening up that “this is not a time for celebration, it’s a time for preparation,” given the potential for a second wave of infections for the coronavirus.
ABC News’ Aicha El Hammar and Phoebe Natanson contributed to this report.