«There is no international reference on the matter,» said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, whose country detailed a timetable for the progressive lifting of restrictions, the first to do so in the European Union (EU).
Denmark and Norway, on a semi-confinement basis, also communicated their dates to exit these measures. For their part, Portugal and Greece mention possible deadlines.
In any case, the return to normality will be done in stages, maintaining certain precautionary measures.
The worldwide circulation of the virus adds a crucial factor of uncertainty. Austria, Norway and Denmark consider that they have already successfully “flattened” the contagion curve.
In Austria, where more than 12,500 cases of contagion have been registered, the government announced a plan for deconfusion after confirming the net decrease in new infections.
Norway, with 5,863 reported cases, estimates that the epidemic is «under control» on its territory.
The number of deaths in these countries has been contained and hospitals have not been overwhelmed.
But in no case do they plan to lift the measures imposed in mid-March overnight.
In Austria, where only supermarkets and pharmacies are open, the government wants to open the small shops on April 14, and the other stores in early May. Hotels and restaurants could start receiving clients in mid-May.
However, the population will have to continue limiting their movements as much as possible and resort to teleworking until at least the end of May.
Austrian schools could open from May 15, and in Denmark, school activity will resume gradually from April 15. In Norway, a part of the students will return to the classrooms from April 27.
In none of these three countries will large groups or sporting or cultural events be authorized until July or August.
Greece for its part said to expect the «return to normality» in May, as did Portugal, as long as the confinement up to that moment was scrupulously respected.
The governments of these countries have not been triumphant, and have warned of the risk that the epidemic will return.
His Norwegian counterpart, Erna Solberg, said for his part that easing the restrictions «does not mean that we have to be more reckless.» Repeated hand washing and respect for social distance will be maintained.
With EU Member States plagued to varying degrees by the pandemic, a long-term limitation on international flights is foreseeable.
In that sense, Denmark’s borders remain closed.
In Austria, Sebastian Kurz warned that «as long as there is no vaccine or effective medicine, this disease will accompany us and there will be no freedom to travel as we know it.»
The European Commission wants to prevent the measures from being lifted «in a scattered way».
Unlike Vienna or Copenhagen, the French authorities have decreed a tightening of the restrictions.
In Italy, the country hardest hit by COVID-19 in Europe, a person in charge warned on Tuesday that «we are far from the end of the crisis, from a hypothetical H hour that will make us return to the situation we were in before.»
The Spanish government, for its part, although it is not talking about measures of lack of precision, is studying how to tackle the «de-escalation» phase of the restrictions, which will take a first step this Monday when non-essential sectors such as construction and industry return to work, which stopped on March 30.
Scientists explain that countries that are reactivating their activities are hanging by a thread. «Group immunity» remains low, they warn.
«If the restrictions are relaxed, the number of infections will increase again a little,» says virologist Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl of the Vienna University of Medicine.