Covid-19 Christmas in Europe
By ECCT staff writers
It is not the Grinch who will steal Christmas in Europe this year but the Covid-19 pandemic as a new wave of infections has prompted governments across Europe to impose restrictions on gatherings.
The Netherlands has started a strict lockdown for five weeks, from 15 December to 19 January. All schools, non-essential shops and many other public venues and spaces will close. Citizens have been told to refrain from booking non-essential travel abroad until mid-March. Restrictions will be eased slightly for the three days of Christmas, when Dutch households are allowed three instead of two guests, not counting children under 13.
France will partially lift restrictions to allow people to visit their families over the festive break but restrictions that meant any trip outside the home had to be made for a valid reason, certificated on paper or a smartphone, will also be lifted from 15 December.
Germany will enter a hard lockdown over the Christmas period, as the number of deaths and infections from the virus has surged in recent weeks. Non-essential shops and schools will close nationwide during the lockdown, which will last from 16 December to 10 January. Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed Christmas shopping for a "considerable" rise in social contacts.
In the UK, a brief window of special restrictions has been introduced across the UK to allow people to celebrate Christmas. Between 23 and 27 December (or 22 to 28 December in Northern Ireland) there will be no travel restrictions and people will be able to mix indoors and stay overnight.
The number of people who can mix is limited, however. So-called "Christmas bubbles" can include a maximum of three households in most of the UK or up to eight people in Scotland.
Many Italian regions are under partial lockdown and a ban on travel between different regions from 21 December to 6 January has been announced. On top of the regional travel bans, people will not be allowed to leave their hometowns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. There will be exceptions for work, medical reasons or emergencies. A curfew from 22:00 to 05:00 will also be in place.
Many Europeans head to the ski slopes over Christmas, but the continent is divided over whether to keep the resorts open. Germany, Italy and France have decided to close ski resorts but those in Austria and Switzerland will open over Christmas.