The novel coronavirus continues to spread in Europe, passing a milestone of 1.5 million confirmed cases on Saturday, according to AFP. Meanwhile, some European nations began rolling out plans to ease quarantine rules.

Spain, Italy, the UK, France and Germany remain the leaders in Europe as regards the rate of the virus’s spread, with more than 150,000 confirmed cases in each country, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Europe is trailing behind the US, which currently has over 1.1 million Covid-19 cases.

As the case numbers continue to grow, some European nations have been announcing plans to gradually end their months-long lockdowns and begin reopening businesses. The French government will start to gradually ease quarantine rules after May 11, with shops and schools allowed to open while social-distancing measures must still be maintained.

In a similar fashion, Italy is expected to loosen its nationwide lockdown from May 4. Citizens will first be allowed to visit relatives living nearby and to exercise outdoors, but will be mandated to wear masks on public transport. Shops and cultural sites will be allowed reopen on May 18, followed by bars and restaurants on June 1.

There are promising signs from the Czech Republic and Denmark, who have not seen a surge in infections after scaling down their restrictions. “So far we do not see a negative trend resulting from previous relaxations,” Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech said earlier this week.

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