European leaders have started outlining their plans for Christmas amid the coronavirus – with people warned not to hug or kiss, curfews for New Years celebrations, and rule violations awaiting police visits.
In Germany, groups of 10 people will be allowed to meet from December 23rd – but the country will be put into a strict lockdown from December 1st to prepare, with fireworks banned over the New Year.
Meanwhile, Italians have been warned to expect a “sober” holiday season with no “hugging, kissing, or partying” but have been told that gift giving is still allowed.
While Belgium has not yet set its rules for the festive season, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden warned this week that police will knock on doors to enforce the law – and said they would be on the lookout for noise nuisance, large groups of people and lots of cars in front of doors. & # 39;
In Spain, a draft proposal leaked to the press calls for Christmas gatherings to be limited to a maximum of six people, while there will be a curfew from 1 a.m. on New Year's Eve.
In the meantime, Emmanuel Macron is expected to speak to the French tonight to outline his plans for the new year. However, he has already warned that people cannot expect life to normalize until 2021 at the earliest.
Ministers in Ireland and the UK are also meeting this week to work out their festive plans in the hope that the strict lockdown measures currently in place can be easily relaxed during the holiday season.
Coronavirus cases have declined across Europe after lockdowns were put in place to trigger a second wave. The heads of state and government are now putting forward their plans for the festive period, warning that the restrictions will remain in place
While cases have declined, deaths – which usually lag behind – are still on the rise in many places, forcing leaders to put in place tough lockdown measures
However, Sweden, which has taken a backseat from an unexpected surge in cases in Covid, is not expected to announce its Christmas edging until next month.
The previously unlocked country has restricted gatherings to eight people and banned alcohol sales after 10 p.m., warned that further action may be required.
Europe was the hardest hit continent amid the second wave of coronavirus. According to the WHO, infections are increasing faster within its limits than elsewhere.
The continent has now suffered a total of 15 million cases and more than 840,000 deaths. In the seven days leading up to November 17, 1.8 million new cases were diagnosed – the latest WHO data available.
While lockdowns have started to reverse that steep spike, deaths – which usually lag behind cases – continue to grow faster than any other region.
This has led the European Center for Disease Control to warn that lockdowns must be maintained through Christmas or else risk a third wave of infections that continues to drive cases and deaths higher.
ECDC predicts that the lifting of current restrictions on or around December 7th will cause virus cases to rise from Christmas Eve and increase exponentially into the New Year.
The lifting of the same restrictions on December 24th will delay the increase in cases until the first week of January, the ECDC said, but with a sharp increase that is still forecast afterwards.
The health authority has not modeled the impact of a partial lockdown as most countries have not yet finalized their actions.
Here's what we know about what Christmas will be like under Covid in each country …
The regional leaders have agreed on a common approach to Christmas that will entangle the country in tougher lockdown measures from December 1, hoping to reduce cases as much as possible before the rules are relaxed during the festive period.
From December 1 through December 23, gatherings should be limited to a maximum of five people from two different households, with the exception of children under 14 years of age.
During the week leading up to Christmas, people are asked to isolate themselves for seven days to make sure they are virus-free before meeting relatives. In some states, employers have incentives to leave workers at home.
Germany will allow a group of up to ten people to meet over Christmas, but the country will be slammed into a strict coroanvirus lockdown beforehand to reduce cases as much as possible (Image: Christmas lights in Berlin).
Then, from December 23rd to January 1st, the rules will be relaxed to allow up to ten people from an unlimited number of households to mingle.
However, large fireworks are expected to be banned on New Years Eve, while church services are also curtailed to prevent them from becoming super-spreader events.
The new measures also provide for an expansion of closings for restaurants, bars and cultural institutions.
Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte has not yet set out his plans for the festive season, but has repeatedly warned against “sober” celebrations this year – with “parties, dinners, kisses and hugs,” all of which were discouraged.
Conte assured Italians on Monday that gift giving is still allowed and that non-essential stores will be open in December for people to shop for one another. The opening times are being extended to avoid large crowds.
He also ruled out strict enforcement of coronavirus rules over the holidays and instead urged Italians to use "common sense" in their plans.
Italians have been warned to expect a "sober" Christmas without "hugging, kissing or partying" as the government plans what measures to take over the holidays (Image: Christmas lights in Milan).
"A free and democratic state cannot go into a house and say how many people are sitting at the table," he said.
Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia added that it was "inappropriate" to talk about Christmas dinner while up to 700 Italians die every day.
He also refused to say whether ski slopes – a traditional Christmas activity for many Italians – will reopen in time for the Christmas season, which precludes and changes the rules in force until at least December 3rd.
Boccia also pointed out that travel between regions in Italy is unlikely to be allowed, as it was in the summer before the virus cases rose.
A draft proposal leaked to the Spanish press suggests that Christmas gatherings could be limited to a maximum of six people from different households – but possibly just one household.
Night vision should also be subject to curfew on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, as indicated in the leaked document, with the possibility of a break at 1 a.m.
Spanish leaders are considering plans to ban households from mingling on Christmas Day and putting in a 1am curfew on New Year's Eve to combat cases of the virus (Image: Christmas lights in Madrid).
People are also advised to wear masks, wash their hands regularly, distance themselves socially, meet outdoors where possible, and ventilate indoor spaces, El Pais reported.
No exceptions will be made for religious ceremonies that must be performed according to local regulations already in place, the document adds.
University students should be allowed to go home during the holiday season, but should self-isolate before traveling to make sure they are virus-free. In general, vacation travel should be allowed, but with reasonable precautions.
Emmanuel Macron will address France today at 8:00 p.m. local time to reveal his roadmap out of the country's strict lockdown, back to the relative normalcy expected by spring.
The "deconfining" is expected to take place in three phases – the first begins on December 1st and lasts until Christmas, the second over the holidays and the third on January 1st.
Non-essential stores are expected to open in the first phase for people to buy Christmas gifts. However, most other measures – including limiting people's distance from home – are meant to stay in place to keep virus cases out before the holiday season itself.
Emmanuel Macron will deliver a national address to the French tonight, promising to find a "clear path" between the strict lockdown of the country and eventual freedom – but has warned that there will be curbs over Christmas
Macron is then expected to announce a relaxation of the rules for socializing during the Christmas season, although it is unclear what limits will be placed on the gatherings.
Another big question mark remains with festive trips. Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said last Friday that it was "too early" to book tickets for the holidays.
Macron was careful to dampen expectations ahead of its announcement, warning that life will not return to normal until spring and that the pandemic will remain "unpredictable".
Before the address he only said: “Nothing is worse than uncertainty and the impression of endless darkness. We need consistency, clarity and a course. Together we know where we are going and how we will get there. & # 39;
The country that has the most coronavirus deaths relative to a country's population has not yet taken lockdown measures during the festive period.
But Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden warned over the weekend that the police would be knocking on doors to check that people are obeying the rules.
Belgium has not yet finalized its festive lockdown plans, but Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden has warned that the police are authorized to knock on the front doors of suspected rule breakers (pictured, the Christmas tree in Brussels).
When asked what the officers would look out for, she said, "Noise pollution, large groups of people in the same area, lots of cars outside."
Anyone who breaks the rules can expect a fine in line with current measures.
Belgium got under strict coronavirus lockdown in November after it became an epicenter of infection in Europe. All non-essential retail stores were closed, workers were forced to stay at home, and family visits were banned.
Ministers have warned that the measures will remain in place until at least December 13th. Consultations are ongoing during the Christmas season.
The country was plunged into a national breaker lockdown in November that is set to be relaxed in December after cases have fallen sharply.
While ministers are still discussing the new measures, it is likely that non-essential stores – along with gyms, hairdressers and salons – will be allowed to reopen for Christmas shopping.
Ireland is expected to relax the rules for shuffling households and travel around the country during the festive season, but has warned those from overseas who may not be allowed (Image: Christmas lights in Dublin).
Restaurants and pubs serving food are likely to be allowed to reopen before Christmas so people can celebrate the festive season with others.
It is also believed that the rules for indoor meetings and travel between counties during the holiday season will also be relaxed. The rules will be announced at a later date, reports the Irish Times.
However, it is unlikely that pubs that primarily serve drinks will reopen over Christmas or New Years, while Irish residents living abroad have been warned that they are unlikely to be allowed to return home.
Lockdown-free Sweden, whose virus expert previously boasted that the country would see a mild second wave thanks to the natural immunity built in the first wave, is now battling one of the worst outbreaks in Europe.
Trapped on their backs, ministers rushed to announce nationwide measures they had previously avoided – including a ban on gatherings of more than eight people and a ban on alcohol sales after 10 p.m.
Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell will announce rules for Sweden next month but has already warned that travel between regions may not be allowed and gatherings should be kept small
Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist, has already warned that restrictions are expected to be in place over Christmas, but they won't be revealed until next month, while the current measures can take effect.
It is expected to issue nationwide guidelines on December 13, warning that travel between different regions is likely to be affected and that Swedes should not plan long trips in winter.
While the Swedish government has no power to ban gatherings of any size in private homes, Tegnell is expected to advise people to celebrate with intimate gatherings – after suggesting that they do so themselves.
Boris Johnson is meeting with executives in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this week to map out a common approach for Christmas after regional governments previously went their own way on Covid lockdowns.
Hopefully this will mean people will travel across the country to be with loved ones during the festive season, which starts on December 23 and ends on December 27.
Mr Johnson is believed to be pushing a plan to allow three households to meet indoors during the five-day Christmas break, provided they don't meet with anyone else.
Up to three households are expected to be allowed to mingle between December 23rd and 27th in the UK. Families are allowed to travel across the country to get together (pictured, a buyer in London).
However, he has also urged people to show restraint, telling people during a national address Monday evening that "it is the time of year to be very careful, especially with older relatives".
Mr Johnson has previously announced that as of December 2nd, England will emerge from a nationwide lockdown into a three tier system of restrictions, allowing non-essential retail stores to open at all levels.
Pubs in some areas are also allowed to reopen, but must be limited to table service, where indoor socialization is largely prohibited.
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