Europe eases lockdown: Which countries are lifting coronavirus restrictions today?

Governments take tentative steps towards returning to normal life by opening schools and shops

Conrad Duncan
Monday 11 May 2020 13:04 BST
The key soundbites from Boris Johnson's lockdown statement

Millions of people across Europe woke up to a relaxation of lockdown measures on Monday, with several countries taking their first steps this week towards a return to normality.

The UK government announced a series of adjustments to its lockdown on Sunday night, including allowing unlimited outdoor exercise and encouraging more people to return to work, in a statement from Boris Johnson which was criticised as vague and confusing.

Meanwhile in countries such as France, Spain and the Netherlands, leaders have gone further and allowed the reopening of shops and schools.

Here’s how lockdown restrictions have changed in Europe this week.


The French government has begun a staggered lockdown which has seen the country divided into red and green zones depending on the level of infections in different regions.

Nurseries, primary schools and most businesses were allowed to reopen and French residents were able to leave their homes without filling out permission slips for the first time in two months on Monday.

Gatherings of fewer than 10 people have also been permitted, while the elderly and vulnerable have been allowed out but warned to use common sense to protect themselves.

However, cafes and restaurants are still closed and some regions, such as the Paris area, which have been designated as red zones are subject to additional restrictions.

Olivier Veran, the French health minister, has warned full lockdown measures could return if there is a surge in virus cases.


Before Monday, Spanish people were still living under tight restrictions, with outdoor activities limited to short walks, individual exercise and essential activities, such as buying food and medicine.

Hairdressers and some other businesses were allowed to open by appointment only and restaurants could only offer takeaway services.

Now, just over half of Spain’s 47 million people have been allowed to progress to Phase 1 of a four-step lockdown easing plan which permits gatherings of up to 10 people and free movement within provinces.

In some regions, such as the Canary and Balearic Islands, bars, restaurants and shops have been allowed to reopen at reduced capacity and museums, gyms and hotels have been allowed to open their doors again.

However, some of Spain’s largest cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, have not yet met the requirements for moving to Phase 1 and are still stuck with the same restrictions as last week.


The Netherlands had a less strict lockdown than some of its neighbours and began its five-phase plan to ease restrictions further on Monday.

Primary schools have partially reopened with social distancing measures this week, while hairdressers and beauty salons have been allowed to return to work as well.

Libraries have also opened to visitors and cinemas, restaurants and cafes can reopen for up to 30 people, so long as visitors are kept 1.5 metres from other customers.

The government has said non-contact outdoor sports, such as tennis, are now permitted.


Italy’s government has not announced new freedoms for today but the country already began lifting restrictions earlier this month after its weeks-long lockdown.

People are now able to visit relatives in small numbers and funerals have been permitted with a maximum of 15 people attending.

Parks, factories and building sites have also reopened, while bars and restaurants have been allowed to run takeaway services.

There will be no new measures until 18 May, when more shops will reopen, along with museums and libraries, the Catholic Church will be allowed to hold masses and sports teams will be allowed to hold group training again.

Bars and restaurants will not be allowed to fully reopen until 1 June at the earliest and schools will not reopen until September.


Fabric shops in Belgium had already reopened on 4 May, but now other shops have been allowed to reopen so long as they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.

In an unusual plan to allow for social gatherings, people living in the same household are also now able to receive visits from a group of up to four people so long as these people do not visit anywhere else.

Meanwhile, schools are set to resume classes from 18 May, with no more than 10 children allowed in each classroom.


Germany has already begun reopening parts of the country and decisions will mainly be made by its 16 federal states.

Shops of all sizes have been allowed to reopen, with extra hygiene and distancing measures, after small shops were allowed to open in April.

Schools have partially reopened for young children and those take exams, with other classes expected to return gradually in the summer term.

Football has also returned, with Bundesliga matches set to resume behind closed doors this week.

In terms of social gatherings, members of two different households have now been allowed to meet with each other.


The Irish government will not begin easing restrictions until 18 May, when its five-stage plan to move out of lockdown will come into effect.

The plan will see restrictions in Ireland eased every three weeks, starting with measures such as a phased return of outdoor workers and the permission for outdoor meetings between people from different households next Monday.

Childcare will also be opened up to healthcare workers next week, along with the reopening of some businesses.

Greater freedoms, such as allowing households to meet with each other, are set to be granted on 8 June.


After moving quickly to impose restrictions following the country’s first Covid-19 case in February, Greece’s government announced relaxations to its lockdown on 28 April.

Churches were allowed to open for individual prayer on 4 May, with religious services set to resume from 17 May.

On Monday, retail shops have opened their doors again and schools have reopened for final year students, with measures in place so students will attend classes on different days.

Cafes and restaurants are set to follow on 1 June, but only with outdoor seating and distancing between chairs.

Additional reporting by agencies

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