April 07, 2020
Austria and Denmark - first to exit after Easter
Austria and Denmark are the first countries with concrete plans to exit lockdown. Both will start to relax confinement measures after Easter, gradually returning back to normal by July or August, with big public gatherings last on the list. Both countries were early with their lockdown in the second week of March, and achieved low levels of new infection rates and death cases after three weeks.
Even so, relaxing the lockdown risks a new infection wave. Japan and Singapore have seen infections rising again as they returned to normal. For political decision makers, the question boils down to their risk aversion, how well they can target and control the spread of the virus, and how they value the costs for the economy and society as a whole. There are also warnings from experts that, if lockdown is too strict, it gives rise to another infection wave in autumn when the economy is just about to start again. To avoid such a double dip must be one of the priorities in the exit strategy.
Interestingly, in their exit plans Denmark starts with schools but Austria with small businesses. In Austria small shops will be permitted to open again from April 14, as well as large DIY stores and garden centres. Restaurants, hotels and schools may be able to reopen in mid-May, though that decision will be assessed at the end of April. Strict rules about masks, social distancing and the number of people allowed into a store at any one time will remain in place. There are high penalties for non-compliance. Public events may resume in July if numbers are good enough.
Denmark starts by opening up schools gradually, starting with kindergartens and primary schools opening from April 15 and middle and high schools waiting until May 10. They are in talks with business and trade unions for a time plan to resume their activities again.