Italians can visit their relatives again for the first time in nine weeks while millions of people are returning to work at construction sites and factories as Europe’s longest lockdown is lifted today.
Restaurants can re-open for takeaways from today and Italians are allowed to visit parks – after the country yesterday saw its lowest death toll since the lockdown came into effect on March 10.
However, bars and ice cream parlours are still shut and everyone will have to wear masks in public spaces.
Elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of children will return to school in Germany today where older children are being given priority as they prepare for summer exams.
Meanwhile Portugal has lifted its state of emergency and is allowing small shops to re-open today – although with €350 fines for anyone who fails to wear a mask.
Spain is also allowing customers to return to some shops such as hair salons, although only by appointment.
Italy’s latest steps today follow only 174 deaths on Sunday, the lowest figure since the lockdown went into effect on March 10, although it followed a spike of 474 on Saturday.
The number of cases was 1,389, also the lowest since March 10, taking the total from 209,328 to 210,717.
Italy’s R rate – the number of people that each person infects – has fallen below 1, a threshold which is widely seen as crucial to bringing the epidemic under control.
Health officials say the figure was as high as 3 at the height of the crisis in Lombardy, which became one of the early virus hotspots in February and March.
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte has announced a staggered re-opening from today, although some regions are moving at different speeds.
The Veneto region which includes Venice and the southern Calabria region have been serving food and drink at outdoor bars and restaurants since last week.
The area around Genoa is thinking of allowing small groups of people to go sailing and reopening its beaches.
But neighbouring Emilia-Romagna is keeping them closed – even to those who live by the sea.
Four million people – an estimated 72 per cent of them men – will return to construction and manufacturing work around the country today.
Restaurants that have managed to survive Italy’s most disastrous crisis in generations will reopen for takeaway service.
The use of public transport will be discouraged and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
People can also visit their relatives again. ‘We are feeling a mix of joy and fear,’ 40-year-old Stefano Milano said in Rome.
‘There will be great happiness in being able to go running again carefree, in my son being allowed to have his little cousin over to blow out his birthday candles, to see our parents,’ the father-of-three said.
‘But we are also apprehensive because they are old and my father-in-law has cancer so is high risk’.
A poll by the Piepoli Institute showed 62 per cent of Italians think they will need psychological support with coming to grips with the post-lockdown world.
‘The night of the virus continues,’ sociologist Ilvo Diamanti wrote in La Repubblica daily.
‘And you can hardly see the light on the horizon. If anything, we’re getting used to moving in the dark.’
Almost everything except for pharmacies and grocery stores was shut across Italy by March 12 under the first nationwide lockdown in Europe.
Conte’s final roll of the dice involved closing all non-essential factories on March 22. Italy’s highest single toll – 919 in a day – was reported five days later.
Italy’s economy – the eurozone’s third-largest last year – is expected to shrink more than in any year since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Half of the workforce is receiving state support and the same number told a top pollster that they were afraid of becoming unemployed.
In Portugal, businesses including hair salons and car dealers can resume their operations today after a six-week ban.
The wearing of face masks or visors is compulsory in stores and on public transport under the government’s plan unveiled last week.
Portugal declared a state of emergency on March 19 and has so far recorded more than 25,000 virus cases, including over a thousand deaths.
That was lifted on Sunday but people were still encouraged to stay home as the country takes tentative steps towards normal life.
Shops cannot open before 10am and must ensure social distancing measures. Hairdressers and beauty salons can receive customers by appointment only.
Anyone found not wearing a mask or visor on public transport could be fined up to 350 euros (£310).
Restrictions on movement will be eased in the coming weeks, the government said on Thursday.
Senior schools will reopen on May 18, but long-distance learning will remain the norm for primary and middle schools through to the end of the year.
Museums, bars, restaurants and art galleries will also open their doors from May 18, two weeks from today.
Those who can will be expected to work from home throughout May and groups of more than 10 people are banned.
Football league action is slated to resume on the final weekend of the month.
In Spain, businesses that operate by appointment, such as hairdressers and beauty salons, will resume limited services from today.
In the next stage, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants can open at 50 per cent occupancy, while groups of up to 10 people will be allowed in public places and in homes.
Germany is continuing to re-open schools today, initially for pupils who are approaching summer exams.
Unlike in some countries such as Denmark and France which are re-opening primary schools first, Germany is keeping the youngest children at home for now.
German media estimates that hundreds of thousands of children will be back today, with only a minority of schools requiring masks.
However, social distancing measures are being kept in place to prevent a renewed spread of the disease.
Germany has a particularly keen eye on the R0 rate, which is currently estimated at 0.78 by health officials.
Angela Merkel has explained how even a small increase above 1 would leave Germany’s health system overburdened by virus cases.
Germany has seen its numbers of new cases and deaths drop to their lowest in early March since recent days, possibly deflated by a long weekend.
Monday morning’s figures showed only 679 new cases and 43 new deaths in the last 24 hours. The number of infections is the smallest since March 11.
Greece is also lifting restrictions today, with people allowed to leave their homes but not the wider regions where they live.
Some retail stores, including bookshops and hair salons, are re-opening today and others later in the month. Schools will open gradually, starting on May 11.
Greece relies heavily on tourism but has seen large-scale booking cancellations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Its borders remain closed to citizens of non-EU nations including the United States and Britain as well as of Spain and Italy as part of the lockdown measures.
The government made no mention on Tuesday of when those restrictions would be lifted.
Greece also moved hundreds of migrants from a camp on the island of Lesbos to mainland facilities on Sunday as part of efforts to ease overcrowding.
The European Union has asked Greece to move migrants most at risk of contracting the coronavirus from the camps on its Mediterranean islands.
Athens had opposed moving them all to the mainland, citing the absence of cases in the camps while the coronavirus was spreading elsewhere in the country.
At least 110,000 people are living in migrant facilities – 40,000 of them in overcrowded camps on five islands.