May 4, 2020 - Health

Spain and Italy try reopening their economies amid the coronavirus

In this image, people stand in line wearing masks outside a store

The Naples railway station on Monday, as passengers travel from Milan. Photo: Marco Cantile/LightRocket via Getty Images

Spain and Italy, the European countries hardest-hit by the novel coronavirus, are reopening their economies in stages beginning on Monday.

The big picture: Both countries have emphasized bringing back industry before retail. In the U.S., some states are reopening restaurants and other non-essential businesses first, in contrast with federal guidelines for reopening.

In Italy, manufacturing plants and construction sites will reopen this week, while museums and shops will reopen on May 18 if infection rates stay low, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told parliament on Thursday.

  • Restaurants and bars are scheduled to stay closed until June under the current plan, while schools would reopen in September, Bloomberg reports.

In Spain, the first phase of the country's plan calls for opening small businesses for counter service and appointments. Restaurants and cafes can only offer delivery. Tourist activity is allowed "without using common areas" and athletes must train alone. Shopping centers will remain closed.

  • Children were recently allowed to play outside for the first time in six weeks, in line with allowing one-hour excursions close to home. Factories and construction were able to resume business last week.
  • Absent a spike in infections, restaurants, bars and hotels can open on May 18 at 30% capacity with outdoor seating only, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a press release on Tuesday. Places of worship would also reopen at a 30% capacity, and agriculture and fisheries could resume business.
  • Spain's best-case scenario is that the country can lift all restrictions by the end of June, Sánchez said, with each phase lasting a minimum of two weeks.

The other side: In the U.S., which is reporting the most verified coronavirus deaths in the world, some states have already moved to reopen dine-in restaurants, stores, movie theaters, beaches, salons and spas in their first phase.

By the numbers:

  • Spain has reported the most coronavirus cases outside the U.S. (over 217,000) and more than 25,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins.
  • Italy has over 210,000 cases and more than 28,000 deaths.
  • The United States has nearly 1.2 million cases and nearly 70,000 deaths.

Go deeper: The global experiment of exiting lockdown

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the U.S. death toll is nearly 70,000 as of May 4.

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