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Life After Lockdown: Cities Around the World Roll Out their Reopening Plans

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This story was originally published April 28, 2020 by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

From Sydney re-opening beaches for swimmers to Paris introducing traffic-free roads, many cities are tentatively preparing to ease lockdowns, but governments have a tricky balancing act as they draw up exit strategies.

Lifting restrictions too fast could lead to a new spike in infections, overwhelming health services, but prolonging lockdowns could fuel unemployment, harm children's education and exacerbate domestic abuse and mental health issues.

Bogota and Berlin are among a growing number of cities turning streets over to pedestrians and cyclists to reduce crowding and ease pollution, which appears to aggravate the impact of the virus.

In the longer term, urban planning experts say the pandemic could lead to more fundamental changes to cities as they aim to become more resilient to future outbreaks.   

Here is a round-up of what different cities are doing. 

People wearing protective masks walk in an increasingly busy street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Milan, Italy April 18, 2020. | REUTERS/Daniele Mascol
People wearing protective masks walk in an increasingly busy street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Milan, Italy April 18, 2020. | REUTERS/Daniele Mascol

FRANCE

Paris plans to reserve streets for pedestrians and bicycles when the lockdown is progressively eased from May 11.

Wearing masks will be compulsory on public transport. Paris aims to distribute 2 million masks, prioritizing the elderly and other vulnerable people. Bus stops, metro stations, gyms and nurseries will be equipped with hand gel dispensers.

Testing will be ramped up in areas with a high number of cases.

In the long term, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is aiming for the "quarter-hour city," where most daily needs are within a short walk, bike ride or public transport commute, to reduce congestion and pollution, and improve quality of life.

SPAIN

Millions of children who have been cooped up indoors in cities across Spain since March 14 are now allowed out for one hour's exercise near their home. Parks and playgrounds remain closed.

Spain has one of the world's strictest lockdowns. Some fear the restrictions could impact children's mental and physical wellbeing. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said everyone will be allowed to go out for walks or exercise from next week if contagion figures fall.

Barcelona has announced a 4.4 million euro ($4.76 million) plan to reduce traffic, including the creation of an extra 21 km of bike lanes and 12 km of pedestrianized streets.

ITALY

Europe's worst hit country will ease restrictions from May 4, when factories and building sites will be allowed to reopen.

People will be able to visit their families and move between municipalities, but not regions. They can also hold small funerals.

Exercise outdoors will be allowed if people keep 1 meter apart.

Restaurants and bars will be able to open from the beginning of June, but schools will remain shut until September, leaving families facing childcare problems.

Milan has announced an ambitious scheme to turn streets over to cycling and walking, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper. The city, among Europe's most polluted, is keen to avoid a big resurgence in car use when restrictions ease.

GERMANY

Berlin will ease a host of restrictions on May 4. Public transport will resume normal service, and museums, libraries and open-air sports grounds will be able to open with social distancing.

Protests, religious ceremonies and open-air gatherings of under 50 people will be permitted if participants keep 1.5 metres apart. Berlin's popular Tiergarten, a big central park with a zoo, can reopen but spaces with animals will stay shut.

As in the rest of Germany, car retailers, bikeshops and book stores were allowed to reopen on Monday, along with all smaller shops. Schools also opened for students taking exams and will gradually open to others from May 4.

It is now compulsory for everyone to wear a mask when shopping or using public transport.   

Hairdressers have been permitted to reopen but must wear protective gear and space out customers.    

In Frankfurt, ice cream parlors are allowed to open for take-aways, but ice creams cannot be sold in cones to prevent contamination, nor eaten within 50 metres of parlors to prevent crowding.

THE NETHERLANDS   

The Hague city council has decided to resume meetings but needs to find a larger chamber to keep to social distancing rules.

Across the Netherlands, primary schools will reopen on May 11 with classes split in two groups attending on alternate days. Parents have been asked to walk or cycle children to school to avoid overburdening public transport.

From April 29, people over 70 who live by themselves will be allowed to receive one of two regular visitors.

BELGIUM

In Brussels, as elsewhere in Belgium, people will be allowed to meet up outside with two people not living with them.

All shops will be allowed to open from May 11 and schools will gradually open from May 18 with classes capped at 10 pupils.

In Antwerp, port workers will begin testing wristbands developed by a Belgian technology company that could help with social distancing requirements by giving a warning signal if people get too close. Developers believe the bands could also help with contact tracing if someone becomes infected.

JORDAN

Jordan has opened up four cities for business where there are no COVID-19 cases — Aqaba, Ma'an, Karak and Tafilah — but it has cut off transport in and out of them. Residents are still bound by a 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. curfew.

Residents in the four cities can use their cars again, but elsewhere people must still walk to shops.

The government has launched www.stayhome.jo where people can obtain permits to leave their homes for things like hospital visits or trips to the bank to wire salaries.

COLOMBIA

Bogota has added more than 100km of temporary bike lanes to its already extensive network, closing some roads to do so.

The initiative announced just before the March 20 lockdown was aimed at easing crowding on buses to curb the spread of the virus.

Colombia has extended its lockdown until May 11, when it will allow the construction and manufacturing sectors to open. Schools will remain closed.

SINGAPORE

The city-state has extended its lockdown to June 1.

Authorities have announced a S$30 million ($21 million) grant to ramp up local production of eggs, vegetables and fish in the city, which imports 90% of its food.

In the longer-term, Singapore is pushing urban farming —including rooftop farming — with an aim to produce 30% of what it needs by 2030.

CHINA

In Wuhan, where coronavirus first appeared, shopping malls have reopened and businesses resumed work, but local residential committees still monitor households and restrict personal movement amid fears of a potential second wave of contagion.

AUSTRALIA

In Sydney, three beaches have reopened for exercise, but social distancing rules apply and sunbathing is banned. People can view the beaches on webcam feeds to see how busy they are before they venture out. Parking lots remain shut to avoid people traveling long distances to the beaches. 

UNITED STATES

Cities including New York and Washington are closing roads and extending bike lanes to give people more space to walk, jog and cycle. Oakland is turning over about 10% of its streets to pedestrians and cyclists.

Some states are now easing restrictions, despite criticism from public health experts and many Americans. Businesses reopening in Atlanta include salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo shops. Restaurants and cinemas will be able to open next week.

Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Additional reporting by Elena Berton, Karolin Schaps and Ban Barkawi. Editing by Claire Cozens.

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