A number of countries are beginning to relax lockdown measures introduced to contain the spread of the Covid-19. Ireland will monitor their progress, amid warnings from the WHO about lifting restrictions too quickly.
It is just over a month since the WHO declared the Covid-19 pandemic and the world went into lockdown.
Globally, the number of confirmed cases is approaching two million and the number of deaths exceeded 100,000 over the weekend.
However, there are signs that the rate of spread of the virus is slowing, even in the countries that were hardest-hit, such as Italy and Spain.
In recent days, however, the WHO has warned that lifting the lockdown measures too early could prompt a “deadly resurgence” in infections.
WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “The way down can be as dangerous as the way up, if not managed properly.”
On Friday, the Government extended the lockdown measures until May 5. Some health experts here signalled that restrictions could be relaxed in weeks, if the spread of infection slows. That will be dependent on Ireland ramping up testing to ‘real time’ results and faster contact tracing.
Over the weekend, the Taoiseach warned we may see “our darkest days” in the weeks ahead, so his government will be observing the lockdown exit strategies of other nations and pondering what to do after the current measures expire.
This week, Spain has started to relax restrictions on non-essential businesses, despite having 170,000 cases of Covid-19 and 17,500 deaths. As of today, manufacturers and construction companies are reopening, but there is concern from a government expert committee that it may be too early.
The Spanish government has published recommendations on how the public can reduce the risk of contagion, such as using private transport, wearing masks, and social distancing at work.
Public-facing businesses, like shops and restaurants, will remain closed.
The Austrian government will stagger the relaxation of restrictions on businesses from this week, on a fortnightly basis.
The country has been in lockdown for five weeks and has had 350 deaths and 14,000 cases.
This week, small stores, garden centres, and DIY shops will be the first retail businesses to reopen.
Every fortnight, restrictions will be lifted on further businesses and services, including larger retailers by May 1, followed by restaurants, bars, and hotels by mid-May.
Citizens must wear masks in shopping areas and on public transport as the restrictions are phased out.
The Danish government is planning a phased reopening of primary schools and childcare facilities from Wednesday.
The decision to reopen will be taken by each school or childcare facility. Some parents are concerned that it is too early.
To date, 6,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed and 300 people have died.
The government is also considering allowing some private companies to reopen their offices and considering recommencing planned hospital procedures.
New Zealand went into lockdown on March 25. Its response has been praised.
The country, similar in size to Ireland, has had five deaths and 1,500 cases.
The New Zealand government will meet tomorrow to discuss the lockdown.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government would consider lowering alert levels, in the hope of restarting the economy, but she cautioned that it was not certain that restrictions would be lifted in the near future.
In China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, in late December, life is returning to normal.
A strict lockdown, combined with aggressive testing and contact tracing, brought the virus under control after three months.
While businesses are reopening and people are resuming work, social distancing, temperature checks, and other measures remain in effect.
There are fears of a potential second wave of Covid-19 from travellers from abroad, following confirmation of a number of new cases transiting China’s border with Russia.
More than 100 new cases were reported on Sunday, which is the highest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases on mainland China for five weeks.