LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – Luxembourg began easing coronavirus restrictions on Monday along with an order that the public cover their mouths when entering confined spaces such as public transport or shops.

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said last week that people would be required to use a mask or other covering such as a scarf over their mouths if they were not able to keep 2 metres away from each other.

Local authorities have started distributing five masks per person to the country’s 626,000 residents. Businesses were able to pick up masks for workers at sites from Friday. Bettel said Luxembourg had a stock of six to seven million masks.

The first phase of restriction easing will see the reopening of building sites, municipal recycling centres, home improvement stores and garden centres.

Neighbouring Germany also started easing restrictions on Monday, with small retailers allowed to open, but France and Belgium remain largely closed.

Luxembourg plans further phases of lockdown exit, with schools open from May 4 for final year pupils due to take exams, for all secondary school students a week later and primary school pupils from May 25. Classes will then be divided in two, each half alternating between a week in school and a week at home studying.

The country so far has 3,550 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 73 fatalities.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Giles Elgood)