The coronavirus pandemic keeps taking its toll across Europe, one of the worst-hit regions in the world, as the total number of lives lost has crossed the grim threshold of 80,000.

Although Italy and Spain have suffered the most, a slowing of new cases and deaths brings hope.

The two countries are discussing a gradual return to normal. For example, Spain is planning to reopen schools at the end of May.

However, France and the UK are expected to be the new epicenters of the outbreak in Europe with their high daily tallies.

Italy

While Italy still has the highest death toll in Europe and at 22,170 fatalities, second after the U.S., the number of new cases in the country has stabilized according to the latest figures.

According to the latest numbers released by the Italian Civil Protection Department, current infections grew 1.1% from Wednesday, in line with the previous day, to 106,607.

Italy's highest daily loss of life was recorded on March 27, with 969 deaths in 24 hours, while the newest cases were confirmed on March 21 at 4,821.

In the last 11 days, the rate of deaths has declined to between 431 and 681 per day, down from more than 700.

While waiting for a gradual lifting of a nationwide lockdown on May 3, a few regions allowed the reopening of book and stationery stores and baby clothing shops Tuesday in line with a decree issued by the government last week.

However, each region decided to implement new rules differently, splitting over how to prepare the so-called “phase 2” of the recovery.

The government, on the other hand, is still struggling to plan the recovery phase and protect Italy’s fragile economic system as the country faces its worst recession since World War II.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that the global economy will shrink by 3% in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Italy’s GDP is expected to fall by 9.1%, more than the rest of the eurozone.

Spain

Although the death toll passed 19,000 in Spain on Thursday, the country is planning to gradually ease its lockdown measures.

Some Spanish education groups sent a letter to Education Minister Isabel Celaa, asking that schools remain open throughout the summer to complete the school year if health conditions related to COVID-19 improve.

Celaa said, “the school year ends in June, but there will be a summer program if health conditions allow.”

The IMF on Tuesday predicted that Spain's GDP would fall by 8% in 2020 with unemployment expected to rise to 20.8%.

The country has not seen this level of economic damage since its civil war in 1936, when the economy shrunk by 23.5%, according to Spanish daily El País.

To address the economic losses, the Spanish government allowed construction workers, production-oriented small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small tradesmen to return to work after the Easter break.

France

France is the fourth worst-affected country globally from COVID-19 with nearly 18,000 deaths and nearly 109,000 positive cases.

Director-General of Health Jerome Salomon said Wednesday that after a month of confinement, the French have reached a very good plateau but should remain at home and continue to observe social distancing as well as practices like washing their hands and avoiding touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.

The country was scheduled to end the lockdown on April 15, but it was extended by President Emmanuel Macron in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening to May 11.

Plans are in place for schools, daycare centers and businesses to open, followed by cafes, bars, and restaurants.

United Kingdom

The UK has reported 13,759 deaths so far with the number of confirmed cases crossing 104,000.

The daily government figures only include deaths in hospitals, and there are now calls for providing a daily death toll at elderly care homes. Around 620 deaths have taken place there in recent weeks, according to care home operators, but government figures have only put the toll at 237 over the past two weeks.

The government has been criticized for taking measures very late compared to other European countries, and some experts suggest the death toll could pass 20,000 by the end of April.

The country thinks it is still early to relax measures and the government on Thursday extended the nationwide lockdown until May 8.

Germany

Germany extended its coronavirus lockdown for two more weeks until May 3 after Chancellor Angela Merkel and premiers of federal states agreed on a roadmap to gradually ease restrictions.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday in Berlin following a video conference with the state premiers, Merkel underlined that while Germany had some success in battling the virus’s spread, the situation is still fragile and the outbreak is far from being contained.

Merkel said most of the restrictions on public life will be extended at least until May 3 with relaxations for small shops and stores with retail spaces of less than 800 square meters, but restaurants and cafes will remain closed until further notice.

She said the government now “strongly recommends” that citizens wear masks while shopping and using public transportation.

Some schools will gradually reopen after May 4 with senior students and those close to graduation returning first.

Germany has the fifth-highest tally of reported COVID-19 infections in the world, ranking behind the U.S., Spain, Italy, and France with 138,135 confirmed cases. But its death toll remains far lower than other hard-hit countries with 4,093 fatalities.

Belgium

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Belgium reached 34,809 Thursday and the death toll rose to 4,857.

On Wednesday, the country extended its confinement measures until May 3 from April 19 previously.

However, gardening and do-it-yourself shops can stay open along with supermarkets and pharmacies while snack bars and restaurants remain available for takeaway.

People are allowed to take walks outside with family members from the same household but are required to keep a 1.5-meter (5-foot) distance from others and the government continues to encourage home office solutions.

At the same time, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Denmark decided to lift some limitations on public life this week.

In Austria as of April 14, businesses up to a size of 400 square meters were allowed to operate, while parks and gardens were opened to the public.

Curfew restrictions have been extended until the end of April, but shopping malls, hairdressers and various workplaces will start operating on May 2.

Denmark, meanwhile, opened primary schools and kindergartens on April 15.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said Wednesday that the country has the coronavirus under control as it has managed to prevent its uncontrolled spread.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions.

Data compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University shows worldwide infections have neared 2.16 million, with the death toll above 145,500, while more than 548,000 have recovered.