Europe is finally seeing signs that its lockdowns are working, as over the weekend Europe's epicenter of Italy finally saw its smallest daily increase in deaths since March 19, and Spain - with more total infections than Italy - also saw its daily number of deaths cut in half. France and Germany are also seeing slowdowns. And Denmark and Austria become the first European countries Monday to announce detailed plans to open back up.
Meanwhile China is opening its economy and even tourist sites back up again, though Beijing officials remain worried about a premature flood of lockdown-weary crowds to popular sites and the potential for a second wave of asymptomatic spreaders.
CNBC reports on the perceived slowdown in many parts of the world: "The figures are prompting European leaders to look for an exit strategy to national lockdowns." Yet they are still cautiously "urging the public to maintain discipline while the apparent recovery from the outbreak is in its infancy."
This prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday to warn governments against easing restrictions to early.
While saying it can't issue any blanket recommendations for countries slowly easing measures, it warned against lifting restrictions on population movement prematurely.
“One of the most important parts is not to let go of the measures too early in order not to have a fall back again,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said, according to Reuters.
“It’s similar to being sick yourself if you get out of bed too early and get running too early you risk falling back and having complications,” he added.
Monday witnessed glimmers of hope, however:
Austria today became the first country to set out detailed plans for ending the standstill, with smaller shops re-opening on April 14 and larger ones on May 1.
Denmark also plans to start lifting restrictions after Easter, but wants people to 'work in a more staggered way' to avoid crowding into trains and buses.
Meanwhile Germany is willing to re-open schools on a regional basis and allow a limited number of people into restaurants if the infection rate stays sufficiently low.
It remains that rising optimism at the start of the week is driving hopeful markets, as UBS strategists led by Mark Haefele, chief investment officer global wealth management, said of European markets climbing on tentative hopes coronavirus may have peaked in a report Monday, per CNBC : it “depends on how quickly economic activity can normalize following measures to contain the virus; and 2) the extent to which policy responses can limit bankruptcies and job losses.”
“We continue to closely monitor data on the spread of the virus and the proposed length of lockdowns,” he said. “We think the data is still broadly consistent with our central scenario in which new cases reach a first peak in Europe by early April and in the U.S. by mid-April, with the most severe restrictions to limit the spread lifted by mid-May.”