Denmark will reopen schools and daycare centers on Wednesday as it relaxes lockdown rules after a number of coronavirus cases in the country have stabilized.
Remaining lockdown measures, such as the closure of bars, restaurants, shopping complexes and bans of public gatherings of more than 10 people, will stay in place for at least another month.
The Scandinavian country, which has over 5,000 cases of coronavirus and a total of 237 fatalities, has seen deaths and hospital admissions stabilize in recent days.
But Denmark‘s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, warned the plan will only work if lockdown rules were gradually eased.
Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, she said: ‘This will probably be a bit like walking the tightrope.
‘If we stand still along the way we could fall and if we go too fast it can go wrong. Therefore, we must take one cautious step at a time.
In an interview with DK last week, Ms Frederiksen said the government was hoping for a ‘gradual, controlled and quiet reopening of Denmark’.
However, she warned that ‘we will not return to Denmark as it was’ when the first restrictions are lifted.
She said: ‘We are not going to be able to squeeze up close together in trains, buses and subways in the way we have become accustomed to.
‘Or stand very close together with a whole lot of other people and have a good party together.’
The Danish government ordered the closure of schools, daycares, restaurants, cafes and gyms when the lockdown began and shut all borders to most foreigners.
There are fears that a deep recession could cause more damage to Denmark than a second virus outbreak. Ms Frederiksen said last week: ‘The situation we are in is far more complicated than appreciating human life.’
Austria was the first country to set out detailed plans for ending the standstill, with smaller shops re-opening on Tuesday and larger ones on May 1.
Meanwhile, Germany is willing to re-open schools on a regional basis and allow a limited number of people into restaurants if the infection rate stays sufficiently low.
In Italy, which has been under lockdown longer than any other European country, officials are talking about a ‘phase two’ where society learns to ‘live with the virus’ by wearing masks and carrying out more tests.
Italy and Germany are among the countries looking at smartphone tracking, which could allow them to jump on new outbreaks without sending everyone back inside.
All of those countries, along with Spain, have seen signs of improvement in their recent figures which offer hope that the crisis is past its peak. That moment is still to come for Britain and America, which are bracing for one of their bleakest weeks.
However, health officials across Europe have warned that life cannot go back ‘from 0 to 100’ immediately and many lockdown measures will remain in place for several more weeks at least.