European countries begin easing coronavirus restrictions as nations emerge from lockdown

A man crosses the Champs Elysee in Paris, where traffic has resumed Credit: Francois Mori/AP

Plastic barriers and face masks appeared on the streets of Europe’s newly reopened cities, as France and Belgium emerged from their respective lockdown, the Netherlands sent children back to school, and Greece and Spain further eased restrictions.

All faced a delicate balance of trying to restart battered economies without fuelling a second wave of coronavirus infections.

With Monday’s partial reopening, the French did not have to carry forms allowing them to leave their homes but crowds quickly developed at some metro stations in Paris, one of France’s viral hotspots.

Credit: PA

A last-minute legal challenge emerged to the government’s practice of confining people to their own regions, further confusing the post-lockdown landscape.

Antoinette van Zalinge, principal of the De Notenkraker elementary school in Amsterdam, wore a wide white skirt and a hula hoop slung from her shoulders and carried a long stick with a hand at one end so she could shake hands with students while still keeping 1.5 metres (5ft) apart.

In Paris, hairdressers practised their new workflow over the weekend ahead of Monday’s reopening, and planned to charge a “participation fee” for the new disposable protective gear they will need for each customer.

A headteacher in Amsterdam wears a wide white skirt and a hula hoop so she could shake hands with students while still keeping 1.5 metres. Credit: AP

Walk-in customers will be a thing of the past, said Brigitte L’Hoste, manager of the Hair de Beaute salon, who expects the number of appointments to be halved.

“The face of beauty will change, meaning clients won’t come here to relax.

"Clients will come because they need to,” said Aurelie Bollini, a beautician at the salon.

“They will come and aim at getting the maximum done in the shortest time possible.”

A waitress carries a tray across the road to a terrace bar in Seville, Spain Credit: Miguel Morenatti/AP

Roughly half of Spain’s 47 million people emerged into a softer version of the country’s strict confinement.

Spaniards were allowed to socialise, shop in small stores and visit restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.

But Spain's biggest cities Madrid and Barcelona remained under lockdown.

Fears about new waves of infection have been born out in Germany, where a new cluster was linked to a slaughterhouse.

A hairdresser in France as salons begin to open. Credit: AP

In Germany, gyms reopened in the most populous state, but authorities there and in France have said any backsliding in the daily number of infections could lead to new restrictions.

“We’re going to have to learn to live with the virus,” health minister Olivier Veran said.

The hurdles ahead for tourism and the service industries were clear, even in places where infections are diminished.

Worldwide, four million people have been reported infected and more than 280,000 have died, over 150,000 of them in Europe.