Emerging from Lockdown: Crowds Across Europe Flock to Beaches & Cafes Amidst Anti-COVID-19 Protests

Written by | Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

A new wave of protests gripped Germany, Poland and the UK as thousands rallied against COVID-19 restrictions. German police detained scores of people in Berlin as several parallel protests were held in the city and also in Frankfurt and Stuttgart during the last weekend, with some of the protesters rallying against anti-infection measures and others decrying conspiracy theories. At a separate protest in Poland, police fired tear gas and used force to break up a rally in Warsaw, while a smaller event in London prompted police to arrest 19 people who gathered to protest social distancing rules in the city’s iconic Hyde Park. In Stuttgart, one protester held up a sign “Coronavirus is fake” while another referenced a conspiracy theory about US tech billionaire Bill Gates – with a placard reading „Don’t give Bill Gates a chance!“ – which claims Gates is manipulating the pandemic to control the world.
Meanwhile, Greece has reopened organised public beaches under strict physical distancing measures as the country experiences the worst May heatwave in some 50 years, with temperatures running as high as 36C. Easing beach restrictions is also seen as key to salvaging Greece’s vital tourism industry over the summer in a country predicted to have the worst recession in the European Union as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government issued strict guidelines for beach operation, with businesses facing fines of up 20,000 euros and a three-month closure for violations. While swimming and the usage of sun loungers were permitted, group sports were forbidden and canteens remained closed.
Also in Italy, people finally allowed to go to restaurants, museums and churches for first time in over two months while obeying safety rules. Italy has taken its biggest step towards a cautious return to post-coronavirus normality, allowing restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as churches, across the country to reopen after more than two months of strict lockdown restrictions. Along with requiring reservations and placing tables one metre apart, restaurants have also been asked to keep a log with their clients’ details for a minimum of 14 days to enable contact tracing in case of a coronavirus infection. Also in neighboring Austria, restaurants and cafes have finally reopened their doors, but the mood among owners, staff and customers is a mixture of relief, pleasure and apprehension because everyone is preoccupied with a vexing question: Will it last?

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