Belgium unveils plans to reopen all shops and schools within three weeks


Belgium unveils plans to reopen all shops and schools within three weeks as India also begins easing world’s largest lockdown

  • Belgium, Europe’s biggest death toll per capita, sketched out exit strategy
  • India started relaxing lockdown of 1.3billion citizens to fire up flagging economy 
  • It jars with approach in Britain where the government deflects calls for road map 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Countries fighting coronavirus outbreaks have started taking baby steps out of lockdown by gently easing restrictions.

Belgium, which has Europe’s biggest death toll per capita, sketched out a blueprint to reopen shops and schools from May 4.

Meanwhile India, which is policing the world’s largest lockdown of 1.3billion citizens, announced a gradual relaxing of curbs to fire up its flagging economy.

Leaders in Brussels and New Delhi are among a wave of nations cautiously hoping they have weathered the worst of the pandemic.

But the exit strategies drawn up by these countries jars with the approach taken by British ministers, who have consistently swatted away calls for the government to publish a road map out of lockdown. 

Belgium, which has Europe’s biggest death toll per capita, sketched out a blueprint to reopen shops and schools from May 4. Pictured: A man rides a bus in Hasselt, Belgium on Saturday

India, which is policing the world's largest lockdown of 1.3billion citizens, announced a gradual relaxing of curbs to fire up its flagging economy. Pictured: An ongoing nationwide screening for media professionals in Bangalore

India, which is policing the world’s largest lockdown of 1.3billion citizens, announced a gradual relaxing of curbs to fire up its flagging economy. Pictured: An ongoing nationwide screening for media professionals in Bangalore

Belgium, which has recorded 45,325 cases and 6,917 deaths, will resume non-essential treatment in hospitals in just over a week.  

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes also said textile and sewing shops would reopen so people can make face masks.    

Bars and restaurants would be allowed to start reopening June 8, although Wilmes also cautioned that a surge in infections could alter the timeline and that ‘nothing is set in stone.’

The landlocked central European country, which is home to the institutions of the EU, only has 11million people but has reported more deaths than China.

The grim death rate means that for every 100,000 citizens, roughly 57 have died of coronavirus.

Thousands of miles away in India, the government got the ball rolling on easing the world’s biggest lockdown, beginning with reopening neighbourhood stores.

Muslim devotees wearing facemasks pray as they maintain social distance on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at Shahi Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad

Muslim devotees wearing facemasks pray as they maintain social distance on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at Shahi Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad

But the relaxation of the super-strict lockdown in India, which has suffered 26,283 cases and 825 deaths, came with major caveats.

It did not apply to hundreds of quarantined towns and other hotspots that have been hit hardest by the outbreak.

Shopping malls also remained closed across the country. Still, for families that run small stores, being able to earn again brought relief.

‘This is a good decision,’ said Amit Sharma, an architect. ‘We have to open a few things and let the economy start moving. The poor people should have some source of income. This virus is going to be a long-term problem.’

Last week, India also allowed manufacturing and farming activities to resume in rural areas to ease the economic plight of millions of daily wage-earners left without work by the country’s lockdown imposed March 24. 

India’s stay-home restrictions have allowed people out of their homes only to buy food, medicine or other essentials.   

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