Thu. Oct 29th, 2020
As Covid cases rise again, how are countries in Europe reacting?
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Austria

A range of new restrictions came into effect in Austria on 21 September, as a rise in confirmed cases accelerated to reach levels last seen in late March.

Masks are required in shops and on public transport, while moving around in bars and restaurants, and shopping at outdoor markets.

Bars/restaurants can only serve seated customers, at tables of no more than 10.

Private indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Schools are open, with class sizes halved.

Belgium

As cases have risen the government has tinkered with existing restrictions rather than impose a nationwide lockdown. Regions and cities can go further than restrictions at the national level.

Masks are compulsory for everyone aged over 12 in public buildings and on public transport.

Bars/restaurants are allowed to open with table service only until 1am, as long as people leave their contact details.

People can have regular gatherings with the same five friends or family members in their social bubble, although if a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained, groups of up to 10 are allowed. Public gatherings of up to 200 people (indoors) or 400 (outdoors) are allowed if people wear masks.

Schools have reopened, but students over 12 and teachers are required to wear masks. After-school clubs and activities for secondary school pupils are suspended.

Croatia

The country had low numbers in spring, but welcoming tourists throughout the summer has led to rising numbers.

Masks are mandatory on public transport, in shops and at public events.

Bars and clubs must close by midnight, while restaurants can only serve customers outside.

Private gatherings are capped at 20 people, with distancing measures observed, except for weddings and funerals, which are capped at 100.

Some schools are open, some are partially open, and a few are closed.

Czech Republic

The country has record new infections in the central and eastern Europe region, after touting its success in spring as one of the first countries to introduce mask-wearing. Restrictions vary by region.

Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces including public transport.

Bars/restaurants must shut by midnight.

Gatherings of up to 500 people, or 1,000 people outdoors, may be held with distancing measures enforced.

Schools are open unless there is an outbreak among pupils.

Denmark

Back in March the country was one of the first countries to impose a light-touch lockdown. Some new restrictions were reimposed on 19 September.

Mask-wearing was never enforced for shops or supermarkets, and only made mandatory on public transport in late August.

Bars/restaurants must close by 10pm.

Public gatherings capped at 50.

In April Denmark became one of the first western countries to reopen schools, with teaching carried out in “micro groups” of no more than 12 and staggered starting times, but without compulsory mask-wearing.

Finland

New infections, which were in single figures in July, are increasing steadily and now averaging 60 a day.

Masks are recommended on public transport.

Customers in bars and restaurants must be seated.

Limits on indoor and outdoor public gatherings were reduced from 500 people to 50 earlier this month.

Schools are open as normal, without masks, but with online lessons when an outbreak is detected

Employees are advised to work from home wherever possible in areas where the number of cases is increasing. Testing capacity is about 20,000 a day, with priority given to healthcare professionals and people displaying possible symptoms.

France

After imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe between March and May, the government has been slowly delegating the job of making rules to local prefects and authorities. Consequently, the rules vary from place to place.

Masks are obligatory in all buildings receiving the public – including shops – on public transport, in schools for staff and pupils over the age of 11, in almost all workplaces, and in bars and restaurants for staff and customers “when moving around”. They are also obligatory outside in Paris and in some other cities and urban areas.

Bars/restaurants are fully open but with table service only. Some outside terraces in some areas have to close at certain hours. Physical distancing must be respected.

Rules on gatherings differ from region to region. Some do not allow public gatherings of more than 1,000 people, others no more than 5,000 people. Private gatherings also vary from area to area.

All schools are open except those that have reported cases. Chairs must be at least 1 metre apart and classrooms/common areas regularly disinfected.

Anyone can get a test without a prescription and without symptoms and the cost is paid for by the health service. Because of long waits caused by anyone who wants to get tested, a priority system is being introduced.

A queue for Covid-19 tests outside a laboratory in Paris



A queue for Covid-19 tests outside a laboratory in Paris. Photograph: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Germany

Decision-making on restrictions is taken for the most part at the regional level, but the federal government has called in general upon Germans to restrict their social contacts as much as possible.

Masks are obligatory in any public place – including shops, railway stations, public transport, and outside – where 1.5-metre distancing cannot be observed.

Rules for bars and restaurants are set at the regional level but broadly speaking tables must be spread out and guests must give their contact details if sitting down to consume food or drink.

Large gatherings, such as sport events, concerts and festivals, are banned nationwide until at least the end of 2020. Rules on small gatherings are set at the federal level.

Schools are open but children are kept in bubbles containing two or three year groups.

Greece

As cases have risen the government has reimposed targeted restrictions in islands and towns. Restrictions vary by region. Athens has been subjected to stricter measures than elsewhere.

Masks are mandatory nationwide in all enclosed spaces including public transport.

Bars/restaurants must close by midnight.

Gatherings are limited to nine in the greater Athens area, with religious events restricted to 20 people.

Schools have been open since 14 September, but close when cases are detected.

Hungary

The country is experiencing a second wave with much higher daily case numbers than the first. This time the government has chosen a Sweden-type model, determined to avoid a full lockdown.

Masks are mandatory in most public places, with fines recently introduced for non-compliance.

Bars/restaurants must shut by 11pm.

Gatherings are capped at 500 people.

Schools are open with temperature checks for pupils from 1 October.

Ireland

Ireland is applying pandemic measures according to an escalating five-level alert system unveiled on 15 September. It is being tested by surging infection rates. Most of the country is at level 2 while Dublin city and county, which have especially high coronavirus rates, are at level 3 until 10 October.

Masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops, theatres, beauty salons, libraries and certain other indoor settings.

Outside Dublin, bars and restaurants are open to groups of six from three households. In Dublin they can operate as takeaways or serve food outdoors, but no indoor dining.

Outside Dublin indoor gatherings of up to six people from no more than three households are allowed. In Dublin you can host one other household in your home.

Schools are open nationwide. Students under 13 do not need to wear masks. Those over 13 and teachers must wear them when a physical distance of 2 metres is not possible.

Italy

Infections rose rapidly in mid-August, prompting the closure of all nightclubs and the introduction of tests for people arriving from at-risk countries.

Masks are compulsory in enclosed spaces such as shops, bars, museums, airports and all forms of public transport. They are not mandatory outside, apart from between 6pm and 6am in busy places.

Bars/restaurants are open with no limits on opening hours. Tables have to be sanitised after each customer and must be at least 1 metre apart.

There are no restrictions on gatherings, whether outside or in homes.

Schools reopened in the majority of regions on 14 September. Teachers and pupils over the age of six must wear masks except when sitting at desks, as long as physical distancing is maintained. Temperatures are taken upon arrival.

A class of teenagers back at school in Turin, Italy



A class of teenagers back at school in Turin, Italy. Photograph: Getty Images

Netherlands

The prime minister, Mark Rutte, has emphasised his intention to take a “regional and local approach”. Extra restrictions are imminent in six regions.

Masks are mandatory for those aged 13 and over on public transport. Face masks do not need to be worn in stations or on platforms. Local authorities have powers to require that masks are worn in public places but there are no national rules.

Bars/restaurants must close by 1am, with capacity limited to 50 people. Reservations and pre-entry health checks are mandatory. Everyone must have their own seat.

Gatherings at home are limited to six, not including children under 13. Large gatherings are limited to 100 inside and 250 outside.

Schools provide the regular number of teaching hours to all pupils.

Norway

Norway’s prime minister called a halt earlier this month to the gradual reopening of society after a strict nationwide lockdown, saying the country was “still on insecure ground”. The country is recording about 100 new cases a day, up from single figures in July.

Masks are recommended on public transport in and around Oslo.

Bars/restaurants cannot serve alcohol after midnight.

Private gatherings are limited to 10 people in Oslo and the western city of Bergen.

Schools reopened in April and schoolchildren have not so far proved a significant driver of new infections.

Poland

Poland relaxed most measures in summer, and daily case numbers have remained steadily higher than they were in spring over the past six weeks.

Masks are mandatory indoors (in spring they were also mandatory outdoors) and on public transport.

Bars/restaurants are open with no restrictions on hours.

Gatherings are allowed, but physical distancing rules are in place for indoor buildings such as theatres.

Schools are following a hybrid in-person/ online system.

Portugal

After winning plaudits for its early response and swift action, cases have risen in Portugal.

Masks are mandatory on public transport, in shops, and in closed or busy places.

Bars/restaurants must close by 11pm. Cafes and restaurants near schools can serve groups of no more than four customers per table.

Gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Schools reopened in mid-September.

Slovakia

One of Europe’s champions in terms of low numbers in spring, Slovakia has reintroduced some prevention measures heading into autumn.

Masks are mandatory indoors in public spaces, including public transport.

Bars/restaurants must close by 11pm.

Large gatherings are prohibited except weddings and funerals, which have a limit of 30 people, though this will increase on 1 October, depending on region.

Schools are open, though 17 schools have been temporarily closed due to outbreaks.

Spain

Three months after its strict – and successful – 13-week lockdown was lifted, Spain has become the worst-affected country in western Europe, with Madrid its worst-hit region.

Masks are compulsory in outdoor and enclosed spaces.

Bars/restaurants are open, but subject to varying restrictions by region.

Limits on gatherings vary by region. Gatherings in the Madrid region are limited to groups of no more than 10.

Schools are open and social distancing is being observed. Masks are compulsory for all students aged six and above.

A woman walks past closed restaurants in Madrid



A woman walks past closed restaurants in Madrid, which is currently Spain’s worst-hit region. Photograph: Javier Barbancho/Reuters

Sweden

New infections are increasing steadily and last week were running at about 250 a day.

Masks are not recommended. Public health officials say it is more important to respect physical distancing and hand-washing recommendations.

Customers must be seated in bars and restaurants, and groups of customers separated by at least 1 metre.

The government has proposed raising its limit on gatherings from 50 to 500 – as long as physical distancing can be observed – from 1 October.

Schools for under-16s were never closed and all schools and universities are now open.

Switzerland

Federal authorities have delegated many decisions to the cantonal authorities.

Masks are compulsory on public transport, and schools, bars and restaurants, and where 1.5-metre distancing is not possible.

Bars/restaurants are open with no nationwide restriction on opening hours.

The limit of 1,000 people on gatherings was lifted from 1 October, but where relevant attendees must be seated.

Schools have been open since May.

UK

The rules vary by nation:

UK rules

Reporting by Daniel Boffey, Rory Carroll, Kate Connolly, Angela Giuffrida, Jon Henley, Sam Jones, Philip Oltermann, Jennifer Rankin, Helena Smith, Shaun Walker, Kim Willsher

The text and graphics in this article were amended on 24 September 2020 to add shops to the places in France where wearing a face mask is mandatory.

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