Parts of Europe hit hard by the deadly coronavirus pandemic took tentative steps towards resuming normal lives on Monday, with Germany allowing some shops to reopen and Norway restarting nurseries.
Governments across the world are debating how and when to ease the lockdowns that have kept more than half of humanity — 4.5 billion people — confined to their homes and crippled the global economy.
After emerging in the industrial central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, the respiratory virus has claimed roughly 165,000 lives, with nearly two thirds of the victims in Europe.
But there were encouraging signs over the weekend in Europe with daily death tolls dropping in Italy, Spain, France and Britain.
In Germany, which been among the most successful in Europe to contain the disease and where authorities have declared it “under control”, smaller shops in some regions were to re-open on Monday.
Larger shops and those in major German cities will open later as part of an attempted phased return to a more normal existence that will also see some students go back to school from May 4.
Adding another flicker of hope in Europe, Norway allowed children to go back to nurseries on Monday, although some parents expressed reservations over the decision.
Hard-hit Spain, where a nationwide lockdown has been extended, also said it would ease restrictions to allow children time outside.
Spain registered 410 new fatalities on Sunday, the lowest daily count in almost a month, and a figure that health ministry emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said “gives us hope”.
Authorities are even starting to shut some makeshift facilities set up to relieve the overburdened health system, including a morgue at a Madrid ice rink.
France also said a nationwide lockdown in force for a month was beginning to bear fruit.
“We are scoring points against the epidemic,” said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.