Latest: How cities around the world are lifting coronavirus restrictions

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 27 May 2020 14:30 GMT

People wearing protective masks walk in the park in the Porta Nuova district, as Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown due to a spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Milan, Italy May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo

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Many cities are easing coronavirus lockdowns - but doing so is a tricky balancing act. Here's what different cities are doing.

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By Emma Batha

LONDON, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From Rome reopening cafes to London allowing picnics in the park, many cities are easing lockdowns, but governments have a tricky balancing act.

Lifting restrictions too fast could lead to a new spike in infections overwhelming health services, but prolonging lockdowns could fuel unemployment, harm children's education and exacerbate domestic abuse and mental health issues.

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A growing number of cities are turning streets over to pedestrians and cyclists to reduce crowding and ease pollution, which appears to aggravate the impact of the virus.

Bogota and Berlin are among a growing number of cities  turning streets over to pedestrians and cyclists to reduce crowding and ease pollution, which appears to aggravate the impact of the virus.

In the longer term, urban planning experts say the pandemic could lead to more fundamental changes to cities as they aim to become more resilient to future outbreaks.   

Here is a round-up of what different cities are doing. This story is regularly updated.



Shops and factories reopened on May 11, along with some schools operating with reduced class sizes.

In Paris, some parks, green spaces and walkways along the Seine have reopened. The city has reserved some streets for pedestrians and bicycles. Outside exercise like jogging, which had been limited to certain hours, is allowed again. Outside exercise is allowed again.

Paris, a so-called red zone due to the high number of COVID-19 cases there, has begun distributing 2.2 million masks.

Masks are compulsory on public transport and stickers on seats mark out social distancing. Passengers who do not comply face a 135 euro ($150) fine. 

Security forces are monitoring station entrances to prevent crowding. Bus stops and metro stations have been equipped with hand gel dispensers.

Officials want to cut daily passenger numbers to 1.5-2 million, down from 5 million pre-lockdown. Employees who cannot work from home have to work shifts and travel at off-peak hours on authorised time slots.

Testing has been ramped up in areas with a high number of cases.

In the long term, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is aiming for the “quarter-hour city”, where most daily needs are within a short walk, bike ride or public transport commute, to reduce congestion and pollution, and improve quality of life.



After imposing one of the world's strictest lockdowns in mid-March, Spain has begun a four-phase plan to reopen the country by the end of June.

Madrid and Barcelona allowed parks, museums, churches and outdoor seating at bars to open this week. Bars will be permitted to open terraces at 50% capacity and people can meet in groups of a maximum of 10. 

Lower risk areas have already eased restrictions.

It is compulsory to wear masks on public transport and in public spaces where people cannot remain 2 metres (6.5 ft) apart.

Spain's lockdown began to ease three weeks ago when a ban on outdoor exercise was lifted with people permitted to leave their homes in timeslots according to age.

The country, which is heavily reliant on tourism, has said it will reopen to international tourism from July.


Shops, restaurants, cafes and hair salons reopened on May 18 after a 10-week lockdown.

Friends can now meet up and restaurants can serve if tables are at least 2 metres (6.5 ft) apart.

Unlimited travel is now permitted in individual regions. The government has said it will allow travel between regions on June 3 when it will also open Italy's borders with Europe.

Italy first started easing restrictions on May 4 when factories and building sites were allowed to reopen.

Schools will remain shut until September, leaving families facing childcare problems.

Milan has announced an ambitious scheme to turn streets over to cycling and walking.


People in England who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to their jobs, but have been told to avoid using public transport if possible.

In London, transport bosses are boosting train and bus services, which were cut back during lockdown, but have warned they will only be able to safely carry 13-15% of normal passenger numbers.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a plan to create more space for walking and cycling to support social distancing and ease pressure on public transport.

Across the country, people are now allowed unlimited time outdoors, and can meet one person outside their household if they stay outdoors and keep 2 metres apart.

Some school classes are set to resume from June 1. Outdoor markets and car showrooms can reopen from June 1, with precautions in place, and other shops from June 15, but pubs and restaurants will not open until July at the earliest.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are mostly easing restrictions more gradually.


Berlin will ease a host of restrictions on May 4. Public transport will resume normal service, and museums, libraries and open-air sports grounds will be able to open with social distancing.

Protests, religious ceremonies and open-air gatherings of under 50 people will be permitted if participants keep 1.5 metres apart. Berlin's popular Tiergarten, a big central park with a zoo, can reopen but spaces with animals will stay shut.

Masks are compulsory throughout Germany when shopping or using public transport.

Schools have also started reopening.

Hairdressers have been permitted to reopen but must wear protective gear and space out customers.    

In Frankfurt, ice cream parlours are allowed to open for take-aways, but ice creams cannot be sold in cones to prevent contamination, nor eaten within 50 metres of parlours to prevent crowding.



Across the Netherlands, primary schools reopened on May 11 with classes split in two groups attending on alternate days. Parents have been asked to walk or cycle children to school to avoid overburdening public transport.

People aged over 70 who live by themselves are now allowed to receive one or two regular visitors.

Facemasks are mandatory on public transport.

Restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theatres and concert halls can reopen on June 1 for a maximum number of 30 customers who have to book in advance. This will be increased to 100 from July 1.

Gyms can reopen in September and contact sports can resume, including competitions.



In Brussels, pedestrians and cyclists have priority over vehicles in the city centre to enable social distancing as the lockdown eases, according to local media.

Cordons have been placed on streets to create one-way routes.

Belgium has allowed most shops to reopen with strict hygiene rules, but bars, cafes and restaurants remain shut until June. Beauty salons, hairdressers and tattoo parlours are also closed.

Schools have started reopening.

In Antwerp, port workers will begin testing wristbands developed by a Belgian technology company that could help with social distancing requirements by giving a warning signal if people get too close. Developers believe the bands could also help with contact tracing if someone becomes infected.



Jordan lifted a ban on driving on April 29 and many businesses reopened after the authorities relaxed a tough 40-day curfew.

Buses and taxis have also resumed operation. Beauty parlors, dentists and shopping malls have joined a list of businesses allowed to reopen, but schools remain shut.



Bogota has added more than 100km of temporary bike lanes to its already extensive network, closing some roads to do so.

The initiative announced just before the March 20 lockdown was aimed at easing crowding on buses to curb the spread of the virus.

Colombia opened its construction and manufacturing sectors on May 11. Schools, universities and sport venues will remain closed.

In Bogota, children aged 6 and above are allowed out three times a week to exercise for 30 minutes in the afternoon. Adults under 60 are allowed out before 10am for one hour.

Adults over 70 and children under 5 will be able to go out to exercise for two hours a week near their home from June 1.

Bogota's gender-based lockdown – where women and men are allowed out on alternate days – was lifted on May 11.



The city-state has extended its lockdown to June 1.

Authorities have announced a S$30 million ($21 million) grant to ramp up local production of eggs, vegetables and fish in the city which imports 90% of its food.

In the longer-term Singapore is pushing urban farming - pushing urban farming: including rooftop farming - with an aim to produce 30% of what it needs by 2030.



In Wuhan, where coronavirus first appeared, shopping malls have reopened and businesses resumed work, but local residential committees still monitor households and restrict personal movement amid fears of a potential second wave of contagion.


Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency in the capital this week.

Unlike strict lockdowns in other countries, Japan did not force businesses to close and some had reopened even before the emergency was lifted.

But many companies have said they will let staff keep working from home.

Many children are set to return to school next week with precautionary measures.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said everyone had to get used to a "new normal" of teleworking and staggered commutes until a vaccine or treatment is developed.

Railway operator Odakyu has said it will release usage data to help passengers avoid crowded trains.


India has extended its lockdown until May 31. Schools, malls and other public places will remain mostly closed, although rules will be relaxed in areas with low numbers of coronavirus cases.

Recent guidelines appeared to give the green light to commerce and industry restarting across much of the country.

Delhi's famous marketplaces can reopen, but with shops doing business on alternate days to allow space for social distancing.

Buses can only carry 20 passengers at a time and thermal temperatures will be taken before they board.

Cars, including taxis, can only carry two passengers. Drivers of taxis and auto-rickshaws must disinfect seating after every trip.

Construction work in Delhi is only allowed with labourers already in the city.

The lockdown, introduced on March 25, has sparked a crisis for millions of urban migrants who depend on daily wages. With no work, many have made the long journey home to their villages.

Meanwhile, a village in Kerala state is distributing umbrellas to enforce social distancing, according to Indian media. The local council says if everyone walks around with an open umbrella it will keep people at least a metre apart.


Cafes, restaurants and bars have opened in most of Australia and will reopen in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria state on June 1.

In Sydney and across New South Wales state, schools, playgrounds and swimming pools are opening again. Sydney's Bondi Beach and two neighbouring beaches reopened on April 28.

Australians can now make home visits and meet in groups outdoors, but each state has different rules on the number allowed to gather.

The government is encouraging people to download its CovidSafe contact-tracing app.

When restaurants and other businesses like bowling alleys reopen in Melbourne, they will have to take customers' first names and phone numbers to help with contact tracing, if necessary, according to the Guardian newspaper.


New Zealand released a contact-tracing app on May 20 and has relaxed limits on the size of public gatherings from 10 people to 100.

The country, which imposed one of the world's strictest lockdowns, began easing restrictions on April 28, allowing workers to return to factories and building sites.

Restrictions were further relaxed this month with cafes, shops, restaurants and other public spaces including playgrounds allowed to reopen under social distancing rules. Schools have also reopened.


Cities including New York City and Washington are closing roads and extending bike lanes to give people more space to walk, jog and cycle. Oakland in California is turning over about 10% of its streets to pedestrians and cyclists.

All 50 states have relaxed coronavirus restrictions to some degree. In some states, like Illinois and New York, restaurants are still closed except for take-aways and hair salons remain shuttered. In many southern states, most businesses have reopened, with restrictions on capacity.

Some Americans are resisting pleas by health officials and many state governors to wear masks

In California, retailers and places of worship can reopen, but some of the state's largest cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have yet to approve reopenings. Beaches in Los Angeles have reopened, but residents must wear masks when not in the water, and lounging on the sand is prohibited. 

Groups of up to 10 people are now allowed to meet in New York state after rules were eased following a legal challenge from a civil liberties group. However, New Yorkers must wear masks and stick to social distancing rules.

Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, could begin a staged reopening next week, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser.

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(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Additional reporting by Elena Berton, Karolin Schaps and Ban Barkawi. Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit