Madrid | Paris: Spain and France, two of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, are set to spell out plans to ease lockdowns as Europe moves to loosen restrictions despite concerns that such steps could backfire. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez plans to announce loosening measures after Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting, and France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present the government’s blueprint to the National Assembly.

Italy — the original epicenter of the continent’s outbreak — will soon permit people to leave their homes for the first time in weeks, joining countries including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in relaxing restrictions. Switzerland on Monday allowed an array of retailers as well as tattoo studios to open their doors, and the Swiss flocked to gardening stores to catch up on spring planting. European leaders are eager to restart economies after lockdown measures shuttered factories, halted travel and kept millions of people largely confined to their homes.

The Spanish cabinet is set to discuss a plan to start phasing out the lockdown, after the government eased restrictions for children over the weekend and said that adults will be allowed out to exercise as of May 3. The administration has said that some regions may reopen before others.

In France, all broadcasters are replacing normal programs with special editions to cover Philippe’s much-awaited presentation at 3 p.m. in Paris. The plan for a gradual easing of the current restrictions from May 11 is being adjusted right up to the last minute. It will focus on six areas, including public transportation and schools, according to his office, which has been tight-lipped about the details.

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