So how are they preparing to resume a “normal” life? In a word: with caution. And those who look with envy on other countries may notice that much remains far from normal.
South Korea – which had the largest epidemic outside of China in February – used a combination of general tests, aggressive contact tracing, harsh public health measures and digital technology to contain the coronavirus without having to impose a general locking. He also maintained a strict quarantine regime.
Thanks to these measures, new diagnosed cases have slowed and the national death toll rose to 256 on Friday, according to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In this context, the South Korean government began on Wednesday to relax its strict rules on social distancing, imposed on March 22, but only in accordance with a set of guidelines called “policy of distancing in everyday life”.
According to these guidelines, people should stay at home if they fall ill with suspected Covid-19 symptoms, continue to keep 2 meters (6 feet) away from others, wash their hands for 30 seconds, and keep rooms well ventilated and disinfected regularly. People over the age of 65 and belonging to high-risk groups should continue to stay at home and avoid confined and overcrowded spaces.
As stated by the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the policy “should not be interpreted as implying a return to” normalcy “as before the epidemic, but rather as an effort to achieve both prevention / infectious disease control and everyday life. “
Similarly, the South Korean baseball season resumed Tuesday – but with matches played in empty stadiums, while the referees and basic coaches wore masks. In a match, instead of the first ceremonial throw, there was a socially distant start as a boy in a large clear balloon walked from the mound to the receiver.
Children will start going back to school starting May 13. Speaking on Monday, South Korean Minister of Education Yoo Eun-Hae told students what to expect in this new post-coronavirus reality.
“As soon as you get to a class, you will have to wipe your desk while the windows have to be opened frequently,” she said. “You will also need to wear a mask except during meals and maintain a two-arm distance when you are traveling or in a line. You must remember these rules and we urge you to follow them.”
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at a briefing on Sunday that the closed facilities will gradually reopen and that events and rallies will be allowed as long as they comply with disinfection guidelines.
“It’s so refreshing and soothing to finally go out,” Ju Eun-song, a 32-year-old store salesperson, told AFP news agency as restrictions were relaxed on Wednesday.
“As we put an end to social distance, we are at a stage where people are getting used to daily distance,” Jo Jae-hong, a 38-year-old businessman, told the news agency. hurry.
But the emergence on Friday of more than a dozen new cases linked to an individual who visited three nightclubs in Seoul last weekend served as a warning about how quickly the virus can recover. Officials quickly advised clubs and bars to close for the next month.
Dr. Peter Drobac, global health expert at Oxford Said Business School, believes that experiences from other governments indicate that a cautious approach is the right one.
“There is no hard recipe that will work elsewhere, but there is a set of principles,” he told CNN by email.
“First, flatten the curve – or better yet, flatten the curve – until there is a steady decrease in new cases. Open when you still have an uncontrolled community spread, as in some parts of the United States. United is madness. “
Second, he said, countries must ensure that their health systems can cope without crisis measures and that health workers have the necessary protective equipment; third, a massive testing capacity must be in place.
“Fourth, contact tracing – which requires people and technology – and a plan to isolate quarantine cases and contacts. Isolation should not be done at home! This is where the more transmission. I don’t understand why this is ignored in the UK and the US. “
Finally, high-risk and vulnerable groups must be protected, he said, because the renewed mobility of people increases the risk of new infections.
“The key to reopening is to compensate for this risk through testing, tracing and isolation,” he said. “These are proven procedures that break the chains of transmission. It doesn’t mean you can get back to normal, but it does increase the chances that you can start opening safely.”
Other countries can learn a lot from South Korea, he said.
“It’s easy to talk about” testing, plotting, isolating, “but hard to do. When you look at the robustness of South Korea’s response, it’s a great set of lessons that can be replicated,” said Drobac. “The other important factor in South Korea seems to be transparent communication and public trust. It will be more difficult in places where the response has been mismanaged or politicized, such as in the United States and the United Kingdom. “
Germans can “afford courage”
Germany is also adopting a phased approach to reopening cases after a foreclosure of several weeks.
Social contact limits would remain in place until June 5, she said, but people can now meet members of another household as well as their own. People should always stay 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart and cover their mouths and noses in public.
Stores may reopen but with additional hygiene measures, added Merkel, speaking at a press conference following a video meeting with the prime ministers of the 16 German states. “The first phase of the pandemic is behind us, but we are still at the beginning and it will be with us for a long time,” said Merkel.
Germany’s best football league, the Bundesliga, will resume play from May 16 – but under strict restrictions and without spectators. It will be the first major European league to return to action.
The coronavirus response in Germany is widely regarded as a success in Europe. The number of deaths in the country, Covid-19, has remained relatively low compared to other countries, and its adequately resourced health system has enabled its hospitals to accept patients from other more besieged European countries. The German advanced diagnostics industry made mass testing possible from the start.
Coronavirus reproduction rate – a crucial measure – has dropped to 0.65, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s disease control agency, said on Thursday. This means that on average 100 people will infect 65 others.
Currently, Germany is able to perform 964,000 coronavirus tests per week, said the RKI, although only about a third of this capacity has been used in the past week.
Germany’s relatively cautious approach to reopening seems prudent, said Drobac.
“Every day, new cases have dropped by the hundreds – this is not trivial, but it is a level that can, hopefully, be managed with a solid system of testing, tracing and isolation”, a he declared.
Germany’s decentralized governance system, coupled with national coordination, means that there is local flexibility useful in deciding exactly how and when to alleviate recommendations for social distancing, he said.
“Big cities may need to move more slowly than rural areas, for example. But most importantly, Germany has instituted a trigger – if new cases exceed 50 per 100,000, this automatically stops the easing of distancing I don’t know if it will work, but it sounds like a smart, evidence-based approach. “
Slowly but surely lift the lock
Elsewhere, urgent discussions are continuing on how to lift restrictions on people’s lives and restart the economy without jeopardizing progress in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. And even if the measures are relaxed, citizens are faced with a very different reality.
In Italy, some 4 million people were allowed to return to work this week – many of whom were construction and factory workers – and Italians were again allowed to visit family members in the same region . Bars and restaurants have reopened, but only for takeout orders.
Government and church leaders also announced on Thursday that masses and weddings could be celebrated in churches starting May 18, after being banned for almost two months. But the services will not be quite the same.
According to the protocol agreed by the leaders, the priest and the faithful must wear masks. The priest will give communion with gloves and will have to be careful “avoiding any contact with the hands of the faithful”.
The faithful must also maintain a distance of one meter (3 feet) from others, inside and outside the church, and anyone with fever will not be admitted.
France will also begin to lift restrictions on the home from Monday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Thursday. He said it would be a “very gradual process” in order to “slowly but surely” lift the foreclosure measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to deliver a television address on Sunday on the restrictions imposed by his country. Newspaper headlines suggest that a major relaxation is expected. But Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, who hosted the daily Covid-19 on Downing Street on Thursday, said any measure would only be “gradual” and “relatively modest”.
Drobac warns that the idea of choosing between prioritizing public health or the economy “is a mistake”.
“The only way to deal with the economic crisis is to deal with the public health crisis. Remember, a lockout is not the solution – it is a time-saving emergency to strategize and prepare, “he said.
“Right now, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of little experiences taking place around the world as countries and communities try to reopen. We will learn a lot from this period about what the news should look like standard for the next two years. “
Yoonjung Seo and Sophie Jeong from CNN in Seoul contributed to this report. Nadine Schmidt, Stephanie Halasz and Livia Borghese from CNN also contributed.