Looking Across Our Borders: How Other Countries Are Opening For Business

 As states and counties stateside start to re-open, we’re taking a look at the approaches being taken to restart businesses around the world. In Europe and Asia, where the COVID-19 outbreak hit earlier, governments are lifting restrictions and putting in place safety measures to keep people safe while re-opening. Here’s what these efforts will look like in a few places:


Germany, which has been spared the high death tolls we saw in other European countries due to strict social distancing and preventative measures, started their efforts to re-open the economy in mid-April. Measures focused on facilitating the return to work for the manufacturing sector, an essential industry for Germany. 

Starting on April 20, car-manufacturing plants started re-opening while implementing strict hygiene and distancing rules. Shift staggering, physical distancing, and checking temperatures are only some of the measures being implemented to protect workers’ safety. At the VW plant in Wolfsburg, the world’s biggest car plant,  100 different health and safety measures have been put in place.

Outside of the manufacturing industry, Chancellor Merkel has introduced minimal changes to the restrictions, allowing only small shops to re-open. The ban on gatherings of more than 2 people from different households remains in place and Merkel warned that a full return to normal life wouldn’t happen until a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 is found.


In France, where citizens have been confined to their homes except for urgent needs, the government has announced a gradual re-opening starting in May. On May 11 shops will be reopening, followed by restaurants, cafes and museums in early June.

Even with the restrictions lifted, Prime Minister Philippe advised to keep working from home. For employees who are unable to conduct their work at home, companies will be asked to stagger work hours by introducing shifts, and requiring masks where social distancing is not possible. Masks will also be required on public transit, which will start increasing its service. Public events of more than 5,000 will remain prohibited until September.

While this plan has been announced, its implementation is dependent on maintaining low infection rates and French citizens obeying the stay-at-home orders in the weeks leading up to May 11. 


After seven weeks of full lockdown and waning death toll, Italy’s prime minister announced a plan that will let Italians slowly resume their pre-COVID-19 lives. While still requiring 3 feet of distance and encouraging Italians to wear masks, the Italian government is rolling out a reopening plan focused on getting its manufacturing and export business back on track.

Manufacturing plants geared towards export, public construction companies, and wholesalers were allowed to resume activity on April 27, with the rest of Italy’s industry following suit on May 4. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to open for takeout service. Retail stores, museums and galleries will be opening on May 18. Dine-in service is projected for June 1, the same day hairdressers, beauty salons and barbershops will be permitted to re-open. 

South Korea

After two months of social distancing, the government introduced detailed guidelines on April 24 that spell out how the country will be returning to work. While these guidelines are not legally binding, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun hopes Koreans will comply, as there was high compliance with the voluntary stay-at-home order.

In Mid-April the Korean government allowed the re-opening of gyms, entertainment and places of worship with reduced capacity. Patrons of these establishments are required to wear masks, keep social distance, and register their attendance to facilitate contact tracing.

With other businesses scheduled to open after May 5, these strict measures will be implemented widely. The guidelines also outline rules for situations where social distancing might be harder. For larger gatherings a “prevention officer” has to be put in place, to enforce a 3-feet social distancing, as well as to take temperatures and monitor symptoms. Hotels have been asked to ventilate rooms for 15 minutes after guests leave, and constantly disinfect high-touch areas such as doorknobs and elevator buttons. Hair salons will be required to space chairs at least 3 feet apart.

New Zealand

With newly diagnosed cases in the single digits, Prime Minister Ardern reduced the country’s alert level to level three, allowing the re-opening of nonessential businesses and takeout restaurants and cafes. While still encouraging New Zealanders to work from home, the reduction of the alert level allows business to operate if they can provide contactless service. Even with the curve flattened, the New Zealand government is urging vigilance and restricting citizens’ movements.

While New Zealand benefited from a late appearance of COVID-19 – the first case was confirmed on February 28  - New Zealand's success can be found in their approach of moving swiftly, testing widely, and relying on science.  

With countries worldwide looking to reopen for business, governments have been implementing hygiene guidelines and safety measures to facilitate this return. Despite divergence in the strictness of these measures, all countries urge caution and  continue to encourage distancing, face masks. Without a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 available, these measures will continue to dictate how businesses run for months to come.


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