Top flight German football kicked off again on Saturday as the French returned to the beach and Italy announced a resumption of European tourism, providing much-needed relief against the relentless drumbeat of death and economic devastation wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic.
The reopenings mark the beginning of a tentative return to normality in some of the countries worst affected by the global outbreak, which has killed 310,000 people according to official tolls, infecting over 4.5 million.
As governments sought to restart economic activity while treading cautiously amid the lingering — though in many cases waning — pandemic, Germany’s Bundesliga became the first major European football league to resume.
Italy, for a long stretch the world’s worst-hit country, announced that European Union tourists would be allowed to visit from June 3 and a 14-day mandatory quarantine would be scrapped.
“We’re facing a calculated risk in the knowledge that the contagion curve may rise again,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a televised address, announcing gyms and cinemas would soon be able to reopen.
“We have to accept it otherwise we will never be able to start up again.”
But as governments lift restrictions to boost stagnant economies, there have been widespread fears of a second wave of infections that could necessitate renewed lockdowns.
Such fears have delayed the return of team sport, and on Saturday all eyes were on the Bundesliga’s opening games, which were played to vacant, echoing stadiums.
– ‘World looking to Germany’ –
“It’s sad that matches are played in empty stadiums, but it’s better than nothing,” said 45-year-old Borussia Dortmund fan Marco Perz, beer in hand, as he prepared to watch the game on TV.
Dortmund’s prolific striker Erling Braut Haaland was the first goalscorer after the two-month shutdown, helping his team thrash rivals Schalke 4-0.