DE200423JB009By Jabeen Bhatti and Eros Banaj

Paris—Denmark is tentatively easing restrictions in its mostly locked-down country and will open elementary schools and daycare centers on Wednesday.

Even so, leaders said they would do so cautiously, fearing a second wave.

“This will probably be like walking a tightrope," said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen last week after announcing the lifting of some lockdown measures.

"If we stand still on it, we could fall. And if we go too fast, it could go wrong. It will have to be one careful step at a time.”

Across Europe, which saw 1,873,265 cases and 79,252 deaths since the outbreak began earlier this year, countries such as hard hit Italy and Spain as well as lesser-impacted Denmark and Austria are starting to ease their lockdowns as of this week.

They do so even as other countries such as France and the UK extending their shutdowns, illustrating how European countries are still at different stages of fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak while becoming impatient to restart their economies.

In Denmark, which had looser restrictions than its neighbors to the south – it allowed Danes to go out as long as they implemented social distancing – officials say they will slowly open businesses and schools in stages. The country was the second in Europe to close down just over a month ago, doing so before it had even reported a death.

Over the past few weeks, Denmark has seen a steady decline in the rate of new cases that led to the loosening of restrictions. On April 7, it reported 390 new infections. On Monday, it reported 144. Also, the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations continues to fall, Frederiksen said Tuesday.

Even so, Denmark plans to keep social distancing rules and its bans on gatherings of more than 10.

Still, some Danes felt it was too soon.

"My jaw dropped (when I heard it)," said Sandra Andersen, mother of two girls, ages five and nine, who created a Facebook group called "My child shouldn't have to be a (guinea pig) for COVID-19" that attracted 21,000 parents in 24 hours, reported Danish daily, Politiken. "It is crazy to send the little ones out first, when they cannot understand the guidelines."

Austria, meanwhile, also locked down early in March and avoided the mass outbreak seen by other countries in Europe. On Tuesday, Austria reopened stores of less than 400 square meters (4,306 square feet) as well as hardware stores and gardening centers. Owners are to make sure that social distancing is practiced within the store and face masks are mandatory.

If new infections don't surge, the plan is for all other stores to reopen May 2, followed by restaurants, bars and hotels in mid-May. Large events are banned until July.

"The experience of countries that have handled the pandemic well taught us that we have to move slowly," said Economic Minister Margarete Schramböck.

Austria saw its daily increase in infections flatten to 3 percent. It has seen 384 deaths in a population of about 9 million since the pandemic first broke out.

By contrast, Spain and Italy were the hardest hit in Europe with 18,056 and 20,465 deaths respectively as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins tracker. Italy was the first in Europe to implement a partial shutdown before moving to a complete lockdown on March 9. Spain followed less than a week later. The two countries had the strictest shutdown rules in Europe.

In Italy, small shops such as bookstores were allowed to open in some regions of the country as long as they maintain social distancing. Lombardy and other areas in the hard-hit north are remaining on lockdown.

Spain, meanwhile, allowed some workers unable to work from home such as those in the construction and manufacturing industries to return to work. Other restrictions will be lifted slowly over in the next few months.

Spanish officials said they would distribute millions of masks and maintain guidelines on social distancing.

"The climb has been difficult, the descent will also be," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told parliament.

Still, some union and regional leaders such as Quim Torra, head of Catalonia, said allowing people to return to work was "reckless."

Even though Spain has managed to get its new infection rate to flatten, say health officials, both Spain and Italy still see more than 500 deaths a day.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and the European Union warned that these countries risk a resurgence of infections by easing their lockdowns.

“The overall world outbreak, 90 percent of cases are coming from Europe and the United States of America," said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris Tuesday. "So we are certainly not seeing the peak yet.”

WHO issued guidance with six preconditions necessary for countries to begin easing restrictions, she added. "And the most important one is: 'is your transmission controlled?,'" said Harris.

Europeans planning to ease restrictions say they are keeping those warnings in mind.

"If we open Denmark too quickly again, we risk that infections rise too sharply and then we have to close down again," said Frederiksen.

French President Emmanuel Macron is not taking any chances in spite of the rate of increase hovering around 3 percent most of the past week. He told the nation Monday evening that the lockdown, which began March 17 and was set to end this week, would be extended to May 11.

"The lifting of the lockdown is only going to be possible if we continue to be good citizens, responsible and respect the rules, and if the spread of the virus has indeed continued to slow," he said in a televised address. “We are living in a difficult moment, but thanks to our joint effort, we are making progress…but it isn't yet under control."

He said France plans to reopen schools and daycare centers on May 11 and some workers will be allowed to go back to work. There was no date given for the reopening of stores, universities or restaurants and bars. It also plans to keep borders to non-European countries closed for up to seven months.

On Monday, France's death rate increased by 20 to 335 deaths in a 24-hour period. The country has the third highest amount of infections in Europe, 144,000 as of Tuesday, and has seen almost 16,000 people die in the pandemic.

In spite of the strict lockdown regime, increasingly more restaurants opened over the past week to serve takeout and streets were busier with cars and pedestrians than in the first three weeks of the lockdown.

"It's beautiful weather and it's hard to stay inside," said Marie, 54, in northern Paris who explained that she was officially shopping for groceries, but taking a detour to get a walk in. "After a month, people are getting restless. Besides, it's safer for me out here taking a walk then inside those crowded supermarkets where almost no one does social distancing or is wearing a mask."

Meanwhile, the UK, which has seen 12,125 deaths as of Tuesday and a new infection rate of about 7 percent for the past week, is expected to announce Thursday that lockdown measures will remain until at least May 7, the Times newspaper reported Tuesday. British officials estimate that the peak is still one to two weeks away.

In Eastern Europe, Poland is set to start opening stores and lifting other restrictions on April 19. Officials in the Czech Republic said they are planning to allow small stores to open on April 20, larger ones on May 11, beer gardens on May 25 and restaurants, theaters and malls on June 8. Larger events, however, remain cancelled. Schools won't reopen until September.

And Germany, with the largest economy in Europe, is set to announce its plan to restart the economy on Wednesday.

"I would very much welcome it if the (governors) and the chancellor could agree tomorrow on a uniform solution for the gradual easing of restrictions," said Health Minister Jens Spahn Tuesday. "It will be a cautious first step back into a new normal. It is about finding the right balance between health concerns and the social and economic consequences."

Still, Maria, a freelance German language teacher in Berlin, says she thinks things will return to normal much more quickly than is maybe good for the country.

"I am sure things get back to normal very quickly because people tend to forget very easily," she said. "Shops will be crammed and I am afraid everything will start all over again."

"Even though I am struggling a bit financially I hope language schools remain closed," she added. "Having many people in tiny classrooms would be irresponsible."

Meanwhile, Filip Bochenski and Anastasia Schöck-Bochenski of the Fabelei cocktail bar in Berlin who only opened their doors 18 months ago say they can't hold on much longer. The country needs to restart now, they added.

"We had to quickly rethink what we could do to stay afloat so within three days (of the lockdown), we created a new system with a cocktail delivery service," said Anastasia. "The demand is not high enough to cover our regular costs but it does take some weight off… But we definitely hope to reopen soon as we – like many other businesses – can only keep this up for a certain amount of time without regular income."

Banaj reported from Berlin.

Photo: April 23, 2020 - Berlin, Germany - Kjello Torgard, a shopkeeper at Daytrip Shoes in the Kreuzberg district, said the store's client base has dropped dramatically due to the lockdown because of a lack of tourists.
Credit: Eros Banaj/ ARA Network Inc. (04/23/20)

Story/photo published date: 04/14/20

A version of this story was published in the Washington Times.
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_RWA161616aa001.jpegKIGALI, Rwanda — Raking through the knee-high grass on his tea farm to clear fallen tree branches, Ezekiel Shinga marvels at how life has changed in his country in the 22 years after the genocide that made this tiny east African county a watchword for horror and brutality around the world.

“I think no one could have predicted the strides Rwanda has made in the past two decades,” said Mr. Shinga, whose farm is in the southern district of Nyaruguru. “Everything in this country has changed. People own businesses, and the majority here are tea farmers. At least everyone has income. There’s peace, and neighbors now love each other.”

Read more at The Washington Times

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_USAObama130222AA001.jpegATHENS — President Obama called for a "course correction" for the global economy Wednesday in an effort to stave off the nationalist impulses being felt in the United States and Europe.

In an address to the Greek people, Obama said growing distrust of elites and institutions demands that democratic governments work to become more responsive to the people they serve.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR150318aa001.jpegJERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party swept to a decisive victory results showed Wednesday in a general election that exposed Israel's rifts at home and abroad, including with the White House.

With the majority of votes counted, Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in the country's Knesset, or parliament. The center-left opposition Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog won 24 seats. Israel's Election Committee is expected to confirm the results Thursday.

Read more at USA Today

aranetwork news

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party swept to a decisive victory results showed Wednesday in a general election that exposed Israel's rifts at home and abroad, including with the White House.

With the majority of votes counted, Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in the country's Knesset, or parliament. The center-left opposition Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog won 24 seats. Israel's Election Committee is expected to confirm the results Thursday.

Read more at USA Today
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_111111.jpegGAZA CITY — As the Palestinian death toll rose, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to continue to target members of Hamas with air strikes in Gaza until rockets the militant group has been firing into Israel from the southern border halt.

"I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet," Netanyahu said at a news conference.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_5410433581_8ae746d004.jpegBAGHDAD — Islamic militants Tuesday attacked areas in central Baqouba, a city just 30 miles northeast of Iraq's capital Baghdad, but were pushed back by security forces and tribal fighters.

In one incident, at least 44 Sunni prisoners died in an apparent foiled rescue attempt by Sunni Muslim militants from the al-Qaeda breakaway group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — referred to as ISIL or ISIS. The Levant is a traditional name for the region including Iraq and greater Syria.

Read more at USA Today


ABUJA, Nigeria — Frustration and despair over the fate of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria is forcing families to organize the rescue themselves.

"We are trying to search for our daughters on our own," said a mother of one of the girls, asking to remain unidentified out of fear of causing her daughter further harm. "Soon we will be heading to the forest.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130705aa003.jpegCAIRO - Violence persisted at Egypt’s universities this week as part of a broader conflict between authorities and student protesters that underscores rights’ activists concerns about obstacles facing independence of the nation’s universities.

On Wednesday, three blasts erupted outside Cairo University, apparently targeting riot police deployed to deal with protests staged almost daily by students. A senior police officer was killed and five others were wounded, Egypt’s state news agency reported. The protest movement Students Against the Coup distanced itself from the attack, cancelling a protest planned for midday at Cairo University. But the incident underscores wider anger at a security crackdown on government opposition.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media


Following the October 3 deaths of around 400 migrants off the Italian island of Lampedusa, European leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday have promised to put immigration on the agenda alongside scheduled discussions on growth, competitiveness and fighting unemployment. But as long they hold to the illusion that interests of migrants are at odds with those of "native" workers, their policies will continue to put lives at risk – and will do nothing to help the EU economy.

Over the past decade, Europe has invested more and more money on keeping non-Europeans out. Frontex, created in 2005 to police Europe’s external borders, saw its budget balloon from €19 million in 2006 to €85 million in 2012. But analysts say this approach does little to reduce overall immigration figures and merely plays into the hands of those ready to exploit irregular immigration, from people-smugglers to unscrupulous employers.



ATHENS - In crisis-ridden Greece, a network of volunteer-run crisis clinics is providing citizens with the medical care denied them by the state. 

Read more at Deutsche Welle


Whether by a harrowing boat trip across the Mediterranean, a mountain crossing over the Turkish border or a flight to Germany, more than 2 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country to take refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq as well as in the Gulf countries and in Europe.

Two million people have fled the war as of September, says the United Nations. Those who got away from the 30-month-old conflict share horror stories of snipers and aerial bombardment, of murdered loved ones and wounded friends. The problems they face in their new homes varies tremendously depending on the country.

Read more at USA Today


NEW DELHI — Eight young women dressed in red tunics and black scarves make their way along a narrow lane in Lucknow's Madiyav slum in northern India as young men move quickly out of their way, avoiding their eyes.

The girls reach a house at the corner of the lane: Two go in and emerge with a young man. Preeti Verma, 17, has a hand around his neck and pushes him toward the girls who then pummel him with slippers and their fists. No onlookers intervene.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130629aa001.jpegBERLIN - Germany takes in more refugees than any other rich country. But that does not mean it is easy for the hundreds of thousands of refugees stuck in limbo.

One year and eight months since Chima Oxumbor arrived at Düsseldorf's police station to appeal for asylum, he has a €1-an-hour (85p-an-hour) job cleaning the toilets and floors at the camp where he shares a room with four or five other people. His life in Germany is not what he expected.

Read more at The Guardian

You are here: Home Top stories