Europe's coronavirus nightmare almost over
Most of the European countries hit hard by the novel coronavirus are returning to normal after the pace of new cases and deaths slowed, ending the nightmare on the continent.
Italy is reopening the country's internal and external borders next week while Spain is discussing to allow transportation to resume between regions as it commenced Phase 3 of the government's de-escalation plan.
On Sunday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that the government could introduce local lockdowns if the number of infections rose again in certain areas.
France meanwhile is preparing to enter its second phase of lifting coronavirus restrictions.
As the worst-hit country in Europe, the UK reported its lowest daily deaths since the lockdown began.
The COVID-19 death toll in Britain reached 39,045 with 111 new fatalities Monday, the day it began easing measures against the outbreak.
At a press briefing earlier in the day, a prime ministry spokesman defended the government's decision to start easing the lockdown in England, despite top scientists voicing concerns that the government was moving too fast too soon.
"We have worked to gradually and safely ease the lockdown measures. The consensus from the scientists is if test and trace is up and running and the public follows the social distancing guidance, then it's unlikely the measures will push the R above one," the spokesman said, referring to the virus' reproduction number.
The spokesman added that people should continue to follow social distancing guidelines and stay two meters apart to keep the virus under control.
On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that if infections again rose in certain areas, the government could introduce local lockdowns.
"What we really want to avoid is any re-entering of the lockdown," he told the BBC. "If we had a second spike…it would obviously be bad on public health grounds, but it would be bad for the economy, and I think it would be bad for public confidence.
"So the really important thing is, as we take the measures, if there's any uptick in any particular locality or setting, we've got the ability to take targeted measures. And that's why the test and tracing system will help us not just bear down on the virus but take further steps along our roadmap to bringing life back to something a bit more resembling normal."
Italy on Monday reported 60 more fatalities from the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 33,475, as the debate over the risks of reopening the country's internal and external borders next week heated up.
The government confirmed Friday that the last restrictions on citizens' mobility between regions will be lifted on June 3 as the contagion rates in all regions are reassuring.
But regional governors in southern Italy are worried that higher levels of contagion in the worst-hit northern regions -- especially Lombardy and Piedmont -- could risk spreading the infection.
Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza admitted Sunday that the government's decision to allow travel between regions of the country starting Wednesday is not "at zero risk" as the coronavirus pandemic is still a reality.
"To have no risk at all, we would have had to maintain a total lockdown for months, but the country would have not been able to stand it," he said.
In light of those risks, regions will be allowed to track tourists as they arrive to avoid a possible spread of the contagion.
Some regional governors are also planning to offer visitors to take tests on a voluntary basis and even include the tests in holiday packages.
On Monday, Spain recorded no daily deaths and the lowest number of infections since early March, reporting only 71 new COVID-19 cases from Sunday.
The Health Ministry also counted no new deaths, keeping the total at 27,127.
Nearly 70% of Spain's population on Monday found themselves in phase two of the de-escalation program. In those places, restaurants, movie theaters and other indoor spaces can open with limited capacity.
Madrid and Barcelona remain in phase one, in which sidewalk cafes, places of worship and small shops can operate.
Four Spanish islands also moved into phase three on Monday, which allows pools and sports centers to operate at reduced capacity.
On Monday, the country's transport minister said he is considering to allow mobility within regions that are in phase three. At the moment, everyone in Spain, even if in phase three, must stay within their province without a valid reason for movement.
France will enter the second phase of de-confinement Tuesday as the country reported 31 deaths on Monday.
Since the start of the outbreak, the death toll in France stands at 28,833, with cases of infection rising slightly to 152,091, an increase of 338 over the previous day.
The first phase of the loosening lockdown measures started on May 11, and the new measures will include the reopening of cafés, restaurants and bars with tables spaced at least one meter apart.
People will be allowed to meet as a group of 10 in the new phase.
Some middle schools that fell in the red zones are now opening as the country has no red zones anymore. High schools will also begin reopening their doors with strict health protocol procedures as the numbers returning per class on any given day remain considerably limited.
France's international borders will remain closed until June 15.