Thank Heavens! Worshippers return to the Vatican as St Peter’s Basilica reopens amid Europe’s lifted lockdowns, with Spain, Portugal and France also easing restrictions
- Restaurants and cafes are serving people at outdoor tables in Italy and Spain as virus restrictions are eased
- Worshippers queued outside St Peter’s Basilica and had their temperatures checked to enter the church
- Some secondary schools are returning in France today, after primary schools and nurseries last week
Worshippers were back at the Vatican today while restaurants are open for business again in Spain and Italy as Europe continues to ease its lockdown measures.
Cafes were serving customers at outdoor tables in Rome this morning while shops, bars and hair salons can all re-open as Italy tries to revive its economy.
Bars and restaurants can also re-open in Spain where gatherings of 10 people are now permitted – but not in Madrid or Barcelona.
Portugal is taking similar steps and is planning to re-open beaches on June 6 with an app to show how full they are.
Some secondary schools are resuming lessons in France today, after primary school children began returning to class last week.
Visitors were back at some of Europe’s most famous landmarks today as worshippers queued to enter St Peter’s Basilica for the first time since March 9 and Greece re-opened the Acropolis in Athens.
Meanwhile, Ireland is also taking its first steps out of lockdown today as some shops and sports facilities were allowed to open their doors.
VATICAN CITY: People queue up at a safety distance as they wait to enter St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican today, more than two months after it closed because of coronavirus
ITALY: A woman wearing a mask sits at an outdoor table in Rome this morning as Italy allows shops and restaurants to re-open from today
SPAIN: Customers sit at outdoor tables at La Malvarrosa beach in Valencia today, as cafes and restaurants re-open in much of Spain
FRANCE: A schoolboy wearing a mask has his temperature checked before entering the Claude Debussy school in Angers this morning
GREECE: People sit on a hill facing the Acropolis hill in Athens yesterday, as the famous landmark is re-opened to visitors today
PORTUGAL: Prime minister Antonio Costa (seated left, gesturing with his right hand) has breakfast with two officials at a pastry shop which re-opened in Lisbon this morning
In Italy, restaurants can open again today as long as their tables are spaced at least two metres (6.5ft) apart.
Shops, bars and hairdressers can also re-open today as Italy seeks to revive its economy after two months of lockdown.
Traffic was noticeably busier in major cities this morning, but business owners fear that normal life will be slow to resume.
‘A lot of people are just walking past and looking in from outside wondering whether they can come in or not,’ said Angelo Lombardo, a cafe owner in Bologna.
By contrast, hones were ringing constantly in hair salons this morning as Italians seek their first haircut since the emergency measures were introduced.
‘I already have 150 appointments, all very urgent, all of them insisting that they must be first on the list,’ said Stefania Ziggiotto, a hairdresser in Courmayeur.
Italy imposed a national lockdown on March 10, earlier than any other European country, and only began to lift it on May 4.
From June 3, EU nationals will be allowed to enter Italy without a quarantine period – a move which Italy hopes will revive its tourism sector.
Church services can also resume today, including in the Vatican where believers had their temperatures checked as they entered St Peter’s Basilica today.
‘I share the joy of those communities who can finally reunite as liturgical assemblies, a sign of hope for all society,’ Pope Francis said during a live-streamed prayer.
Francis is not expected to greet worshippers inside the basilica or in St Peter’s Square as the Vatican seeks to avoid crowds.
However, the Pope will celebrate a private mass in front of the tomb of Pope John Paul II, who was born 100 years ago today.
A waiter wearing gloves and a face mask carries a cup and saucer as a customer sits outdoors at a cafe in Rome this morning
Worshippers pray in the John Paul II chapel in St Peter’s Basilica today, as the re-opening of the church coincides with the 100th anniversary of the former Pope’s birth
Nuns wearing white face masks to match their religious habits leave St Peter’s Square after visiting the basilica this morning
A shop worker wearing a mask carries clothes in protective bags at a store in Milan this morning as Italy tries to revive its economy by re-opening shops
Spain is relaxing lockdown measures in much of the country today by permitting outdoor seating in bars and restaurants.
People are allowed to meet friends and family in groups of up to 10 people under the new rules.
However, the easing does not apply to Madrid and Barcelona because they do not yet meet the health ministry’s criteria for easing the lockdown.
Of Spain’s total 231,350 confirmed cases, the Madrid region accounts for 66,338 while Catalonia – which includes Barcelona – has had 55,824.
Much of the Castile y Leon region which neighbours Madrid is also remaining under stricter lockdown measures.
Spain was now ‘very close’ to putting an end to the transmission of the virus, thanks to the efforts of the population, said health emergency chief Fernando Simon.
He warned, however, that the danger of a second wave of infections was ‘still very big’.
For that reason, the government wanted ‘to reinforce the compulsory nature of face mask wearing’, health minister Salvador Illa said.
A decree on the subject will be published in the coming days, he added. Wearing a mask is already obligatory on public transport.
Two women wearing masks sit at an outdoor restaurant in Valencia today while another man also wearing a mask rides past them on a bicycle
Two customers sit at outdoor tables at a cafe in the Spanish city of Ronda today as much of the country lifts lockdown measures, although not Madrid and Barcelona
Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and all open-air archaeological sites in the country to the public on Monday after a two-month closure.
A clutch of tourists and masked reporters gathered at the world-famous site, the most-visited monument in Greece.
‘We have never seen so few people at the Acropolis,’ a Russian visitor accompanied by her husband said.
‘It’s like having a private visit,’ said the woman, who has lived in Athens for five years.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou was among the first visitors to the ancient Greek complex that sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the capital and which had been closed since March 23.
Separation screens have been put up and the sites have been disinfected, the culture ministry said.
Visitors will be encouraged to wear masks – which will be compulsory for guides at the site – and guests will be asked to stay 1.5 metres (5ft) apart.
But all museums will not be open until June 15 under the government’s plan to gradually lift restrictions.
Athens expects the economy to contract nearly five percent this year, partly due to the loss of tourism income.
With 163 deaths from the virus, Greece started easing the measures this month after a six-week lockdown with an eye to salvaging the vital tourism season.
People walk in front of the ancient Temple of Parthenon on the Acropolis hill in Athens last night as Greece gradually eases its lockdown measures
Some secondary schools are returning in France today, with children wearing masks and having their temperatures checked as they lined up for class this morning.
To ease the fears of parents, the government has given them the choice to allow their children to return to school or remain under lockdown at home.
Primary and nursery schools reopened last week, with teachers wearing face masks and the children’s chairs separated to avoid spreading the disease.
Unions have criticised the decision to reopen the schools, calling it ‘premature’.
More than 300 mayors from the Paris region, including the capital’s mayor Anne Hidalgo, warned against rushing children back, as well as the financial cost for smaller towns and the threat of legal action if pupils fell ill.
French people can now venture outdoors again without filling in a permit, and some shops have re-opened their doors.
Other secondary school pupils will return next week, while some church services have also resumed and people can now travel up to 60 miles from their homes.
School pupils wear full-scale face shields over their masks in a classroom at Claude Debussy College in Angers today as some French secondary schools resume lessons
Pupils wait outdoors at the school in Angers, with a teacher wearing a mask inspecting the children’s safety distance
Ireland launched the first tentative step in its plan to lift coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with staff returning to outdoor workplaces as some shops resumed trade and sports facilities unlocked their doors.
The modest tweaks to the restrictions in place since 28 March start a staggered process set to stretch until August.
‘I’m both pleased and nervous,’ health minister Simon Harris told state broadcaster RTE.
‘I’m pleased that we’ve gotten to this point because of the incredible efforts of the Irish people in suppressing this virus.’
‘I’m nervous because the virus hasn’t gone away, there still isn’t a vaccine, there’s still people in our country getting very sick, and there’s still people dying every day.’
Shops such as garden centres, hardware stores and farmers markets were permitted to open their doors whilst outdoor staff such as builders and gardeners returned to workplaces.
Football pitches, tennis courts and golf courses were also allowed to resume business whilst maintaining strict social distancing.
Meanwhile citizens were permitted to meet in small gatherings outside of people from different households.
But Harris urged caution as the republic took its first step in trying ‘to live successfully and safely alongside the virus’.
‘Just because somewhere is open doesn’t mean we need to go,’ he said.
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