France, Italy and Spain prepare to ease coronavirus lockdowns


France, Italy and Spain are preparing to loosen coronavirus restrictions, with other countries watching closely to see how some of the first and hardest-hit countries in Europe might safely emerge from their crippling lockdowns.

Decisions on how and when to reopen will be vital to how people and businesses can cope with the pandemic, balancing the need for economies to restart with the risks of new outbreaks and further shutdowns.

In Italy, which was the first European country to impose a lockdown in March, and where there have so far been close to 200,000 infections and at least 26,384 deaths, Giuseppe Conte said manufacturing could restart as soon as 4 May.

The Italian prime minister said schools, however, would not reopen until September. Measures would be announced early this week, he told Italian daily La Repubblica.

Tight lockdowns have been seen as a blunt but effective tool to halt infections until a vaccine is developed.