As restrictions ease further, Europeans mark Children's Day with messages of hope

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European countries took another step to normalcy on Monday with a further easing of anti-coronavirus restrictions, as part of the continent celebrated the International Children's Day with public figures sending messages of consolation and hope for better days ahead.

In a phased approach, lockdown measures have been lifted cautiously by European governments, with a new phase of easing often coming on Mondays. Across Europe, businesses are reopening and many children are back in school.

An online dashboard, maintained by the WHO European Region, showed that 2.16 million confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in 54 countries, with 180,650 deaths as of 10:00 a.m. CET (0800 GMT) on Monday.


Starting on Monday, more than 10 European countries further eased their coronavirus lockdown restrictions, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Finland and Albania.

In the Belgian capital of Brussels, the iconic Atomium building reopened its doors to the public, after having been closed since March 14 when Belgium imposed a nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Built on the occasion of the 1958 Universal Exhibition and representing the conventional iron crystal mesh magnified 165 billion times, the Atomium is on the verge of bankruptcy, with an estimated loss of 3 million euros (3.3 million U.S. dollars) due to the lockdown measures.

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said the Atomium's reopening marked the return of some degree of freedom. Even if masks and social distance were necessary, she noted, this "should not keep us from enjoying the culture," Brussels Times reported in an online story.

Also on Monday, the Netherlands reopened restaurants, cafes, theaters, concert halls, museums and cinemas after two and a half months.

"We are taking the second step in easing the anti-coronavirus measures today," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter. "Only if everyone adheres to the measures can we take a step forward."

Greece also took another step to normalcy with the reopening of primary schools and kindergartens, open-air cinemas, hotels and swimming pools among other businesses which had closed since March.

In Italy, lovers of archeology and antiquity were rewarded by the reopening of the Colosseum Archeological Park and its monuments -- which include the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the remains of the Emperor Nero's Palace, the Domus Aurea -- all of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list as sites of "incomparable artistic value."


June 1 is the International Children's Day in more than 10 European countries, including Romania, Portugal, Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

In Romania, this year Children's Day has become a big day for people of all ages, since it's the first day that most of the anti-virus measures were lifted.

When the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History opened at 11 a.m., there was already a long queue at the gate. Zoos and parks in Romania were also favorite choices for children. In parks, children can be seen happily playing with rollers and skateboards.

In Portugal, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the Sagrada Familia Social Complex, where he met children from daycare centers and schools in the metropolitan region of Lisbon.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa published a message on his social media as the country entered the third phase of de-confinement.

"On the day that we celebrate another Children's Day, we return to socializing in pre-school establishments. Fifteen days ago, we reopened the daycare centers, demonstrating that ... we could have our children in these establishments again," wrote Costa in his tweet.

The Polish government and organizations helped the children celebrate the International Children's Day with various online activities. The authorities organized a number of online readings for children, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who read a Polish children's poem for kids.

In Albania, authorities lifted restrictions for citizens to visit parks and playgrounds. The Children's Day was celebrated with fun activities dedicated to children at the newly reconstructed "Rinia" park in the center of the capital.

Children accompanied by their parents enjoyed the new playgrounds, toys, the concerts with songs and dances, sports games, circus and other fun activities organized by Tirana Municipality.

Albanian President Ilir Meta paid a visit to an orphanage in Tirana, where he donated books and drawing notebooks to the children.

Meta commended New beginnings orphanage for helping some 200 abandoned children, orphans or children from families with major social or financial problems, for 25 years.

"Your mission throughout these years has been to help, support and invest in the children with major social problems, and have them educated and get them out of...poverty, preparing them for the challenges of the future," he said. 

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