Australia’s prime minister said it was time for the country to “get out from under the doona”, or duvet, and get back to work as its central bank warned of the worst recession on record.
Scott Morrison unveiled a three-stage plan on Friday to ease social distancing restrictions by July and get nearly 1m people back to work as coronavirus cases decline.
Australia has been relatively unscathed by the disease with fewer than 100 deaths and 7,000 cases. Its states and territories have now agreed a road map to remove most of the curbs as the number of daily infections falls below 20.
Mr Morrison said: "You can stay under the doona forever - you'll never face any danger. But we've got to get out from under the doona at some time."
Under the first stage of the plan, restaurants and cafes will reopen, but with a maximum of 10 customers at a time, before offices and nightclubs open in the final stage.
The Reserve Bank of Australia underlined the economic scars of the virus as it warned that growth would tumble by 10pc in the first half of the year, marking the first recession in three decades.
The RBA cut interest rates to a record low of 0.25pc in March and launched an unlimited quantitative easing programme to keep borrowing costs low for banks and consumers.
However, the unemployment rate is still expected to hit 10pc despite the government subsidising the wages of about 6m workers.
Denmark meanwhile became the latest European country to announce the unlocking of most of its economy from Monday, after judging that the threat of Covid-19 had receded. The country of 5.5m has recorded just 514 deaths since imposing a lockdown in March.
The entire Danish retail sector will be allowed to resume normal business on May 11, with cafes, restaurants and schools for older children set to open the following week.
The government opened primary schools and allowed some businesses including hairdressers and dentists to return to work last month but the country’s borders remain closed.
Prime minister Mette Frederiksen said Denmark was “now in a good place” but warned that any spike in infections detected as the economy opens up would see restrictions reimposed.
Other European countries easing their lockdowns this week included Netherlands, France and Spain, although restrictions remain in centres of infection such as Madrid, Barcelona and Paris.