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How Europe is reopening

Just over a month ago, as North America was beginning its lockdown, the Europeans were the ones showing us how to stay sane in quarantine through balcony orchestras and viral internet videos. Now we’re looking to them for how best to reopen the economy and minimize the number of fits and starts.

  • This morning Spain recorded its lowest daily death rate from the coronavirus. It is beginning to prepare for a phased relaxation of its lockdown rules. Things will not return to normal overnight. [Financial Times]
  • Spain allowed construction activity and manufacturing to resume this past week. As a reminder, Spain’s strict lockdown started on March 14. [New York Times]
  • Bookstores are open in Venice, but that’s about it. Customers have to enter one at a time, or schedule an appointment. Hotels, restaurants, and cafes remain shuttered. It is believed that at least 1/6th of all Italian restaurants and bars will not survive. Reopening is not happening uniformly across Italy’s 20 regions. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Last week, Denmark became the first country in the Western world to reopen elementary schools. The desks are far apart and teaching outside is being maximized, but some/many are concerned that this is too soon. Are we prioritizing the economy (i.e. free up the parents) over the health of our children? [New York Times]
  • The Czech Republic currently has one of the lowest number of cases on the continent. But hardware stores and bike shops are some of the only nonessential businesses that are allowed to be open. The Easter weekend saw an over 60% increase in year-over-year sales. Biking is something to do right now. [Wall Street Journal]
  • On Monday, the lockdown will be further relaxed by the Czech government. Weddings of up to 10 people will start to be allowed. Gyms are expected to open on May 11, but their change rooms will remain closed. (I’m surprised by this one.) Malls, hotels, and indoor restaurants aren’t expected to reopen until June 8 at the earliest. Should the number of new daily cases exceed 400 going forward, the government has said it will reimpose a lockdown. [Wall Street Journal]
  • The UK is not yet considering a relaxation of its lockdown. As of Sunday, the situation remains “deeply worrying.” The UK currently has the 5th highest national death toll. [Globe and Mail]
  • On April 13, Emmanuel Macron announced that France would begin a phased reopening of its economy — schools and some businesses — starting on May 11. This is a unique approach. He gave a firm date, well into the future. What if this doesn’t make sense when the time comes? Clearly the government felt that the psychological benefits of a firm date outweighed the potential risks. Minimize uncertainty during an uncertain time. [Le Monde]
  • Lots of discussion around the porosity of borders. Logically, there’s a view that unless there’s a common strategy, it’s better to keep borders closed. But what are the economic implications of doing that? [New York Times]

Photo by Grant Lemons on Unsplash

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