Four months after the coronavirus emerged in China and spread like wildfire around the globe, many hard-hit countries are finally starting to recover. Here’s a quick look at changes taking place in the fight against COVID-19.
Many European Countries Ease Restrictions
European countries including Italy and Austria have been slowly lifting restrictions since mid-April in an effort to restart their economies without spurring the spread of COVID-19. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently announced that people will be allowed to visit nearby relatives starting May 4. Though schools will remain closed until September, many parks, factories, and other building sites will reopen.
Prime Minister Conte has called the May 4 changes “Phase Two” of the lockdown’s conclusion. Church services will remain banned and Italy’s premier football league likely won’t resume, but bars and restaurants can once again provide takeout services and residents can move around their own regions freely, as long as they maintain a safe social distance from others.
Meanwhile, in Spain, the country’s severe lockdown restrictions are slowly easing. Over the past seven weeks, all children were confined to the home and all non-essential businesses were completely closed. As of May 2, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez plans to allow children outside for one hour per day. Families will also be permitted to walk outside or exercise together.
The leadership in Austria is also pushing forward reopening measures. As of May 1, Austrians can now leave their homes for non-essential purposes. On May 15, shops, hairdressers, and the hospitality will likely be cleared to open. Restaurants must limit seating to four adults per table, with each table at least 3 feet apart. As long as the number of coronavirus cases continues to decline, hotels will reopen on May 29, but the country’s border will remain closed.
New Zealand Reopens With Caution
Unlike the United States, with more than 1.1 million cases of the coronavirus as of May 1, or Spain, with nearly 240,000 cases at the turn of the month, New Zealand has been lucky to report less than 1,500 cases and 19 deaths. In response, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced “There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle”.
New Zealand businesses that don’t require physical interactions between customers have officially reopened, and schools may reopen for children soon. Weddings and funerals with less than 10 people are permitted, as are outside recreational activities such as hiking and surfing.
Germany Conducts Europe’s First Nationwide COVID-19 Antibody Testing
On April 22, Germany’s federal disease control and prevention agency, the Robert Koch Institute, announced its launch of a nationwide COVID-19 antibody testing.
Antibody testing, also known as serological tests, is designed to identify COVID-19 antibodies in the blood of any patient who has recovered from the coronavirus. Experts at the Robert Koch Institute believe that Germans who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies should have immunity from contracting the virus again in the future.
The Institute hopes to gather data on how many people have antibodies, at what levels, and if those antibodies do provide protection against the virus. Testing is planned in three phases:
- Examine samples from people who have donated blood
- Take samples from people in hardest-hit regions of Germany
- Study antibody levels in the general population
Officials hope to examine 5,000 blood samples every two weeks to draw reliable conclusions about the behavior of the coronavirus and immunity by the beginning of June.