The Spanish government has just announced that the Madrid and Barcelona regions will remain in the first stage of lockdown de-escalation, but says some restrictions will be lifted.
From Monday, small businesses in both regions will be allowed to serve people without prior appointments, and places of worship will be able to reopen at 30% capacity.
Almost three-quarters of the country will be in the second phase by Monday, while 30% – some 14 million people – will remain in the first stage of lockdown loosening.
Downing Street has rolled back on the idea of exempting travellers from France from incoming quarantine rules, with only freight drivers and experts working on anti-Covid-19 efforts being able to avoid the 14-day isolation period.
Boris Johnson used his TV address last Sunday to announce that quarantine restrictions would soon be imposed on people entering the UK, but only mentioned those arriving by air. It later became clear that the rules would also apply to arrivals by road, rail and sea.
Later on Sunday, after a call between Johnson and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street said “no quarantine measures would apply to travellers coming from France at this stage”.
Asked about it on Friday, however, Johnson’s spokesman said: “There isn’t a French exemption. What the statement at the weekend said was they were quoting measures applied to France [at that stage], and that was a joint statement between ourselves and the French.”
UK’s reproduction rate still close to 1, bringing lockdown-easing steps into question
Transmission rates of Covid-19 remain dangerously close to the levels that could cause the epidemic in the UK to start to grow again, according to the government’s latest estimates, raising questions about the extent to which restrictions can be safely eased in the coming weeks.
The latest official estimate places the national R value – the rate at which people are passing on infections to others – at between 0.7 and 1. An R value above 1 means the epidemic will start to grow exponentially again, which would result in a new surge of cases.
The range is slightly higher than that quoted by officials in recent weeks. When announcing plans to ease some lockdown restrictions on Sunday, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said:
We have the R below one, between 0.5 and 0.9 – but potentially only just below one.
The slight increase, and narrowing in the range, is not linked to relaxations that have occurred this week as the estimate is based largely on hospital admissions and deaths data, which reflect the levels of transmission two to three weeks ago.
A likely explanation is that as the overall levels of infection have fallen, hospital and care home settings are making a relatively bigger contribution to the overall estimate of R. Lockdown restrictions have less impact in these settings and there are still concerns about the levels of testing available in care homes.
The figure suggests that, while the lockdown has been extremely effective at bringing down case numbers, R is still close to 1, meaning that it would not be possible to ease restrictions significantly without new measures to contain outbreaks, such as extensive testing and tracing.
There were 242 new coronavirus fatalities in Italy on Friday, down by 20 from Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 31,610.
New infections rose by 789, down by over 200 within the last 24 hours, according to the civil protection authority.
Restaurants, bars, hairdressers and beauty salons are due to reopen on Monday as Italy gradually eases restrictions, while the ban on inter-regional travel might be lifted from 3 June.
Italy has had 223,885 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, including 120,205 survivors.
Ireland’s ‘phase one’ of easing coronavirus lockdown will allow construction workers, gardeners and some retail businesses to get back to work on Monday.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Friday that farmers’ markets could also open up as well as builders’ merchants, tool suppliers for gardening, farming and agriculture.
Opticians and shops selling hearing aids will open too as well as outlets selling IT, electrical and office goods, the Irish prime minister said.
Varadkar urged anyone using public transport in Ireland to wear a facial covering.
He said that the country may move to lift further restrictions within the next three weeks.
Varadkar warned however that “Covid-19 is an inferno that is raging around the world”.
While in Ireland it is a “fire in retreat” the Irish people will not defeat the virus until every spark and ember is quenched, the Taoiseach added.
Europe could face deadly second wave of winter infections, WHO warns
Turkish teenagers were allowed out for the first time in seven weeks on Friday ahead of a new four-day total lockdown across the country this weekend that will stretch into Tuesday’s national holiday.
People aged over 65 and under 20 have been under a 24-hour curfew as part of Turkey’s efforts to combat one of the world’s largest coronavirus outbreaks, numbering nearly 145,000 confirmed cases.
Youths aged 15-20 were allowed out between 11am – 3pm, with Turkish media showing footage of teenagers playing football in parks, visiting malls and queuing up for takeaway ice cream and drinks from cafes.
The elderly were allowed to leave the house for four hours last Sunday, and children under 14 on Wednesday, as Turkey tentatively seeks to ease lockdown restrictions.
The government has said a “normalisation plan” is dependent on any rise in new infections but is hoping many sectors can reopen after the Bayram (Eid al-Fitr) holiday ends on 26 May. Turkey’s airspace is due to reopen 28 May with a handful of flights operated by the national carrier.