First wave over? Several European nations set to relax coronavirus lockdowns

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Europe is getting ready to reopen, slowly.

Italy, Austria and Denmark are among the first countries to plot the gradual unwinding of their lockdowns against the coronavirus epidemic. Their experiences will show the path ahead for hundreds of millions of other Europeans living under social-distancing restrictions.

The U.S. government is also starting to consider how it will relax its social-distancing guidelines, which run through April. Anthony Fauci, pandemic adviser to President Donald Trump, has said it will be a gradual process there too.

The unwinding of restrictions will be gradual, with factories resuming production well before restaurants and bars resume service or people can gather at public events.

Related article:  First COVID-19 vaccines on track to arrive late 2020, faster than thought possible

After suppressing the pandemic’s first, big wave, the next phase will be about managing a continuing but, countries hope, much lower level of contagion. Government plans involve ample use of face masks, large-scale testing, cellphone apps to help contain transmission and hospitals dedicated to treating the infected.

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Flare-ups of new cases in some countries that seemingly had tamed the virus, including Singapore, have shown how difficult it will be to halt new infections entirely unless and until an effective vaccine becomes widely available, something experts say will take time.

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