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COVID-19

How is each European country emerging from coronavirus lockdown?

Tentatively, parts of Europe are emerging from lockdown, with France and Belgium joining the list of countries easing measures on Monday, amid fears of a second coronavirus wave.

How is each European country emerging from coronavirus lockdown?
European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, wearing a protective face mask to lessen the spread of novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Photo: JOHN THYS / AFP

Here is an overview:

France

Hair salons, clothes shops, florists and bookshops will open again Monday. Bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas remain closed.

Primary schools will take small numbers of pupils, depending on space. Masks will be obligatory on public transport.

Everyone will be able to move outside without having to present a form on demand but people will only be able to go 100 kilometres (60 miles) from their place of residence.

The easing has brought mixed reactions. “I've been scared to death” about the reopening, said one bookshop manager from Lyon.

“It's a big responsibility to have to protect my staff and my customers.”

Belgium

Most businesses will open Monday, with social distancing. Masks are recommended.

Cafes, restaurants and bars remain closed. In central Brussels there will be speed limits on cars and priority will be given to cyclists and pedestrians.

Schools remain closed until May 18.

The Netherlands

Primary schools will partially reopen Monday. Driving schools, hair salons, physiotherapists and libraries also return, with social distancing measures.

Switzerland

Primary and middle schools will reopen Monday, with classes often reduced in size.

Restaurants, museums and bookshops will also open, with conditions. Meetings of more than five people remain banned.

Spain

Half of Spain's some 47 million people will be able to meet with family or friends in gatherings of up to 10 as of Monday.

Outdoor spaces at bars and restaurants can reopen with limited capacity. Hardest-hit Madrid and Barcelona are excluded from the easing, though football clubs FC Barcelona resumed training on Friday and Real Madrid will follow Monday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has called on Spaniards to show “the greatest precaution and prudence” because “the virus has not gone away, it is still there”.

Only movements within provinces are authorised and cinemas and theatres remain closed. Schools will not start up again until September.

Britain

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation on Sunday evening to set out a “roadmap” for relaxing social distancing rules.

“We have to be realistic that there isn't going to be any dramatic overnight change,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

Italy 

While schools remain closed until September, factories, building sites and offices reopened on May 4. Social distancing rules are in place in parks.

Wearing masks is mandatory on public transport. All retail businesses will reopen on May 18, as will museums, cultural sites, churches and libraries.

Bars and restaurants will reopen from June 1, along with hair and beauty salons. The first phase of lifting lockdown has also sparked fresh concerns.

In Milan, photographs published in newspapers of people sitting along canals enjoying aperitifs in the sunshine, many not wearing masks or respecting social distancing rules, prompted the city's Mayor Giuseppe Sala to slam the behaviour as “shameful”.

Virologist Massimo Galli also warned the city was a virus time “bomb” at risk of erupting with residents now free to move around.

Germany 

Eating at the restaurant is now possible in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the country's first cafes and restaurants reopened on Saturday.

Under Germany's federal system, each of the 16 states makes its own decisions on how to emerge from lockdown and cafes and restaurants will reopen in a number of other states in the coming days and weeks. Most shops are already open and children are slowly returning to classrooms.

Bundesliga football matches are also set to resume. Heeding signs of a second wave, German authorities have agreed to reimpose restrictions locally if an area has more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over a week.

Austria

Hairdressers, tennis courts and golf courses reopened in the first weekend in May.

Travel restrictions have been lifted and gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed, with social distancing. Masks are compulsory in public transport and shops.

Final-year school students returned to class on May 4 ahead of a gradual return for others. 

Poland

Hotels can reopen on Monday but foreign tourists must quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

 

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HEALTH

‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Most Danish egg producers said on Monday they would no longer use fish meal in feed for organic hens after the pollutant chemical PFAS was detected in eggs.

‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Danske Æg, an industry organisation representing around 90 percent of producers in the country, said in a statement that fish meal would no longer be used as a result of the discovery.

“In consideration of food safety we have stopped using fish meal,” Danske Æg sector director Jørgen Nyberg Larsen said in the statement.

A study conducted by the DTU National Food Institute (DTU Fødevareinstituttet) and the Danish Veterinary and Food Association (Fødevarestyrelsen) found a high PFAS content in egg yolks from hen farms across Denmark.

The chemical was transferred to the eggs from fish meal, which is used in feed for the hens, the study concluded.

“We take the situation very seriously because food safety is crucial for all of us. We are therefore no removing fish meal from organic eggs and putting all our efforts towards better understanding the situation,” Larsen said. 

What are PFAS? 

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in various products since the early 1950s. Their past uses include foam in fire extinguishers, food packaging and in textiles, carpets and paints. Also known as ‘forever chemicals’, they persist in water and soil and can cause harm to human health. 

Due to their chemical properties, they take a long time to break down and can be found in very low concentrations in blood samples from populations all over the world.

They are, however, unwanted in the environment because they have been found to have concerning links to health complications. Their use in materials which come into contact with foods, like paper and card, has been banned in Denmark since 2020.

PFAS have been linked to a series of health complications and, if ingested in high enough amounts, are suspected of causing liver damage, kidney damage, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced fertility, hormonal disturbances, weaker immune systems, negatively affecting foetal development and being carcinogenic.

READ ALSO: PFAS pollution: What do people living in Denmark need to know?

DTU National Food Institute said that the issue with the chemical making its way into eggs can be solved by changing the feed given to hens.

“We are already in close dialogue with the animal feed industry and work is ongoing on measures that will eliminate the problem. We note that DTU also has suggested solutions and we will naturally look at those,” Larsen said.

“But right now, we are putting a stop to fish meal so that consumers can also feel comfortable with organic eggs in the short term. After that, we can naturally look at a permanent fix,” he said.

Supermarket company Coop said on Monday that it had no plans to remove organic eggs from its shelves as a result of the detection of PFAS.

The company, which owns the SuperBrugsen, Irma and Kvickly grocery store chains, told news wire Ritzau it had been in contact with its suppliers of organic eggs to confirm that the level of PFAS in the eggs does not exceed the permitted amount.

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