Life after coronavirus quarantine: What to expect from reopening when lockdown ends

Life after coronavirus quarantine: What to expect from reopening when lockdown ends


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Some countries and US states are starting the long, tentative process of easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions as a way to rev up flagging economies and give restless residents more freedom of movement.

What exactly that means for restaurants, businesses, schools, religious worship, hiking trails, gyms and movie theaters is still up in the air and could differ dramatically even from city to city. In the US — where there is no unifying national law on social distancing or stay at home orders — state, county and city governments are taking it upon themselves to institute shelter in place, stay at home orders and mandatory face mask laws.

At a time when some states and countries are looking to open up, others are doubling down. The situation is changing rapidly and post-lockdown life could look very different depending on your location. In the US, President Trump outlined a three-phase plan for reopening the US step by step for employers and individuals, which includes “strict physical distancing protocols” for restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, sports venues and houses of worship.

We can also glean hints about what to expect from local government officials and the early reintegration efforts of countries and communities that are relaxing certain measures.

Note that this story is intended to provide an overview of the situation and will update frequently in response to global coronavirus developments.

Restaurants and bars

Many restaurants are open for some combination of delivery, take-out or curbside pickup. In some places, open restaurants may place diners 6 feet apart and restrict capacity by, say, half, in order to practice social distancing. Some are closed altogether.

Closed restaurants that reopen are likely to roll back measures one at a time, in order to keep customers and their own employees safe. Others may be quick to welcome back diners, but with extra sanitation or capacity measures — maybe servers will wear gloves and menus will be disposable. In the warmer months, it’s possible we’ll see outdoor patios opened to a limited number of seated orders, with tables and chairs sanitized between parties.

In Austria, for example, restaurants, cafes and bars will open May 15, and must close at 11 p.m., Reuters reported.

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The most significant challenge dine-in service represents is the inability to wearing a face mask while eating. If the coronavirus can transmit through droplets when you speak and breathe, in addition to spreading via coughs and sneezes, then eating indoors could be riskier than other businesses. 

It also isn’t clear if air conditioning causes air flow patterns that could infect healthy diners if a customer winds up being asymptomatic. It’s worth noting that the World Health Organization has said that airplane ventilation systems present a fairly low risk of transmission.

Other businesses: Gyms, hair salons, movie theaters

Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores are open, but smaller retail shops, like clothing boutiques, hair salons and malls, often aren’t. It’s likely that when these stores reopen, the number of customers allowed in at the same time could be based on the size of the retail space, as is the current situation in Germany

Hygiene precautions could also be put in place, like sanitizing your hands before and after leaving the business, and wearing face masks or coverings. It’s possible that some services might be temporarily suspended if they put people’s faces too close together.

Senior hours are already in effect in many grocery stores — giving people over 65 the opportunity to shop before the general population could carry over to these other shops. 


Like many businesses, gyms put people — and their bodily fluids — in close proximity.

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Schools and universities

Online learning is the watchword of the day, but what happens next? School administrators, government officials, and teachers are all scrambling to create policies that keep students from potentially transmitting the virus.

Denmark has reopened schools for younger students, with a set of rules distancing children’s desks, disinfecting toys, playing in groups of two or three and prohibiting the sharing of food. Beijing will reopen classes for high school seniors, on April 27, according to the Wall Street Journal, with both teachers and students wearing face masks. Temperature-taking could become routine.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed more possibilities in an April 14 press conference, including the potential to stagger student meals and schedules throughout the day.


Many trails are closed to discourage people from gathering.

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Beaches, hiking and nature trails

The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains and large parts of Yosemite National Park are closed as part of the National Park Service’s coronavirus prevention efforts. Many local beaches and nature trails are too, to discourage groups of people from congregating.

Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has given municipalities the authority to reopen the economy and outdoor spaces, with social distancing practices in place. Jacksonville’s mayor officially reopened beaches during set hours and limited gatherings to 50 people. 

Concerts, sports, amusement parks and other major events

The state of Georgia is moving forward with its plans to lift lockdown restrictions that would see gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons and elective medical procedures reopen as long as distancing and hygiene guidelines are enforced.  

Meanwhile, major gatherings worldwide continue to be canceled, including Germany’s iconic annual Oktoberfest celebration, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and most major sporting events. Amusement parks like Disneyland and music festivals that attract large crowds are also closed, cancelled or postponed until further notice. 

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Could lockdown happen again? Yes

One continuous refrain from public health officials is that reopening economic and social life too soon could trigger a resurgence in coronavirus cases and deaths related to the COVID-19 disease. 

It’s happened in Singapore, which was thought to have the coronavirus outbreak contained and under control before more cases erupted. In China, a spike in positive cases has reportedly resulted from travelers reintroducing the virus upon their return.

Meanwhile, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, is slowly lifting restrictions, but warned that a second wave of infections could come. She echoed the words of WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who said, in an April 10 coronavirus briefing, that “lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence.”

For more, here are five things you shouldn’t expect to do when lockdown ends, 15 practical coronavirus tips to help stay safe in public and information about what to do if someone you live with gets sick.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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