‘It’s nothing like last month’: This is what lifting lockdown looks like across the world

‘We went for our first proper night out since lockdown last weekend’

As England enters a strange and unclear period of easing our already very lenient lockdown, people in other countries are exiting theirs. Truly exiting, though. Not just unlimited sunbathing and maybe being able to see a mate in the park if you’re two metres apart. The difference in the outcome is the beginning: lockdowns were much stricter, other countries did not allow people to leave their homes at all – not even for exercise. Certainly not more than once a week, and only for groceries.

As a result of these stringent lockdowns, the death toll and infection rate dropped so low that they’re just weeks away from bars and restaurants opening. Weeks! Imagine that. People in Italy can already pick up drinks from bars to takeaway, students in Spain are skating freely around the streets of Barcelona and singing in the squares. They are getting their lives back and, as you might imagine, it feels really, really good. Here’s what it’s like in the countries where lockdown has lifted, from the mouths of the lucky people experiencing it right now.

‘The only way we could get sun before was by sticking our heads out of the window… now, we’re free!’

Ana is an Exeter student staying in Siena, a city in the Tuscany region of Italy. She told The Tab: “In Italy they announced that on the 4th May we would be allowed to go outside for exercise or walks but always with a mask on. I’m in the region of Tuscany and on the 1st May the regional authority announced that Tuscany was allowed to legally go outside.

“The first thing I did was go on the longest walk ever around the city with housemates and saw friends who I hadn’t seen for over two months (I want to add this was outside and we were socially distancing with masks on), some of my friends have been in a small Italian flat by themselves for more than 50 days. People were outside in the main squares but giving everyone a lot of space.

“The vibe is so much nicer, there’s a much happier feeling in the air. It was so nice to walk along the streets hear chatter and it not being completely dead. It has honestly felt amazing being able to go outside but at the same time overwhelming. You have to think we had done nearly two months of being in a small flat where the only form of getting direct sun was by sticking our heads out of the window! So suddenly being allowed to go outside was so strange and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, you had to push yourself to go out because you didn’t know how to do it!”

“With my house mates we also went on a long walk in the fields outside Siena, I was quite emotional that I was able to enjoy some of the spring that was left, the smell of the flowers and just sitting in the field with the warmth of the sun that first time is definitely something I am never going to forget. We’ve had over a week now of being able to go outside and I am definitely so much happier and hopeful towards everything. Things are being lifted depending on the region but I can now go and get takeaway coffees and takeaway drinks in bars! You can get takeaways in all restaurants and the bookshops are open.

“I know that on the 18th May that museums, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and beauticians will reopen again. Honestly the thing I missed most was being outside, everything else closed wasn’t a big impact on my life. I’m someone that loves the outdoors so only being allowed out once a week was the hardest part, especially being in a small flat in the city centre. I’m hoping that next month we will be able to get a bus to the beach without needing permission as currently you need a permission slip to go on public transport and that by July hopefully there will be movement between regions as the Italian government does want inland tourism for this summer to keep the country afloat.”

‘It was scary at first, as we’d got so used to staying in’

Rosie is an Exeter grad currently living in Hanoi, Vietnam as part of an English teaching programme.

“Lockdown lasted three weeks, but the schools had been shut since January and anyone that flew in had to do a 14 day quarantine”, Rosie told The Tab. Our rules were much stricter. You were only allowed to leave the house for food shopping or health visits like going to the hospital or the pharmacy. We had to have our temperature taken before we went in the supermarket. We weren’t allowed to go out for exercise but the enforcement here isn’t as spread out so it’s the luck of the draw if you run into the police.

“It was quite scary at first, as I’m not sure what healthcare I have here and so many of our friends left and so you doubt whether you made the right decision to stay. During lockdown some of our friends moved in and we have an oven, which is a rarity in Vietnam, so we spent most of our time watching Homeland and cooking elaborate meals.

“Lockdown was lifted two weeks ago, there are still 39 active cases but there have been no deaths. It was scary at first, as we’d got so used to staying in. It was meant to be a staggered lockdown lift but because all the businesses are private everything just opened straight away – food places, gyms, bars and clubs. Lots of them had a refurbishment and the pools had all been cleaned out. Secondary schools reopened last week and the primary schools have now started to open.”

“I’d forgotten how to socialise, when we went out for drinks some tapped me on the shoulder to say goodbye I just sort of grunted at them. We went out for a few beers in the first two weeks and went for our first proper night out this weekend as we wanted to give ourselves time to ease ourselves back in. We still have our temperatures taken in the supermarket and after the night out I had a proper hangover fever, so my temperature was too high and I wasn’t allowed in. Before lockdown we would all eat out everyday, but now that we’ve got used to cooking in, we haven’t gone out for food yet. I feel it now needs to be a special occasion and I don’t want to spend money on it.”

‘Seeing peoples faces as I skate around the city is so amazing’

Isaac lives in Barcelona, in Spain, and has just come out of a strict lockdown with minor restrictions lifting first.

“We spent 50 days in possibly the strictest lockdown in Europe here. We could only leave the house to shop and people with dogs could walk within 1km radius from their home (you legally have to carry ID or will be fined for not doing so). Children were not allowed out at all until Saturday April 25th. That was a positive change to see happen. As of Saturday May 2nd we have been allowed daily exercise between 6am-10am or 8pm-11pm and some takeaway restaurants and hairdressers have been allowed to reopen their shops under strict conditions of social distancing. We are allowed to exercise or walk with one other person you live with or alone. Some parks have been reopened to facilitate this change also.

“The first day, me and my flatmate woke up at 5.45am, skated to the sea front and went fast everywhere. We explored the city with new eyes. It was so busy! To see people’s faces was so incredible (even if most were behind a mask). Now I am keeping my routine of lockdown. Meditation first thing, then rotating days of indoor exercises and yoga in the mornings, skating Macba and Arc De Triomf with Louis my flatmate everyday at between 6-8am to train when the local spots are not busy (this is the European Mecca of skateboarding). In the daytime I am preparing meals, applying for jobs and working for a call centre  job that just laid off its employees and waiting to see how long I will be still working. I just have some clothes, my phone, deck, kendama and my three favourite books.”

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“How it feels is that I am so grateful to be here experiencing this. I think we can really see our ‘leaders’ for what they really are right now. Boris is just wanting to be liked, Trump is thinking about money, etc. I feel Spain has handled this very well and we are seeing results now. I had a good skate today, rolled my ankle skating, got stop and searched by cops, I’ve been eating good food and I have some sense of what day it is and significant moments.

“Next is gonna be the phases of de-escalation. I personally think this will work much the same as the start where the time was extended by two weeks at a time. For now we are expected to be at the final phase by the end of June. I very much doubt it will be back to normal here, as Barcelona relies on tourists so heavily and I can’t see that tourism is going to be as encouraged or so much of an interest for people. Next is a big deal because even putting my feet on sand or grass in nature will be a huge change… so everything feels like a big step. I think my personal big next will be to get a new job and keep working on myself. Time is a luxury and blessing.”

‘It’s a huge change to a month ago, it’s mental’

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Stella is also living in Barcelona with her boyfriend as part of her year abroad. She told The Tab: “I have been living in Barcelona with my boyfriend since the start of my year abroad here in September. We decided to stay put here despite the circumstances as our current living situation is great and we have spent the quarantine with our flatmates. By the 2nd May we had been living under full government lockdown for seven weeks and as people have seen the restrictions were a lot stricter to begin with here in Spain than in some other countries.

“On the 2nd May we were finally allowed to start going out for daily walks and individual exercise in allocated times for our age category. At this point a week had already passed of children being allowed out for walks and exercise with a parent accompanying them so the streets were starting to get more crowded.”

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“But as soon as 8pm hit on our first day of freedom it was like a stampede of people from every corner coming into the streets. It was mental. We stayed within our neighbourhood as technically we can only go for a walk within 1km of our house. The first weekend was very busy as everyone wanted to enjoy the weather and first weekend of legally being allowed to leave our house for a walk without a purpose. Before that I had only gone as far as the closest supermarket and pharmacy as going further was more hassle than it was worth with police giving out fines to people frequently. It feels really nice to have some more freedom now but also a bit strange to be seeing different streets and more people again. Things calmed down throughout the week but as more local shops and business start to open the streets are becoming busier at all times throughout the day and it is a huge change to what they looked like just a month ago.

“However it does feel like people have lost momentum and are being less careful when it comes to social distancing. We live next to a popular plaza and at around 5/6 every day it’s as if all the families forget there is a virus and crowd the plaza all at once. Sometimes it’s too hot to go out midday so they choose to go out after their siesta but the scenes are ridiculous overcrowding, worse than when there wasn’t a lockdown in place as many people are still working from home and can spend more time with their kids.

“I hope that as we have more restrictions lifted people will be able to get back into more of a routine. The thing that I missed the most was skateboarding and now we can finally go for a roll or find a spot to skate for a couple of hours even if the skateparks are still taped off. I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to go out during the middle of the day for exercise as it gets really crowded in the evening when most people go outside at the same time. Overall there is definitely a livelier vibe to the neighbourhood and you can tell people are friendlier and happy to finally be outside.”

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