Europe back in lockdown due to Covid-19

People cycle on the Mall with Buckingham Palace in the background in London, on Jan 9, 2021.
People cycle on the Mall with Buckingham Palace in the background in London, on Jan 9, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

Many European countries have tightened measures to fight Covid-19 after a brief relaxation over the Christmas and New Year period.

They have re-imposed lockdowns, closed shops and offices and introduced laws to make it easier for governments to impose further restrictions to battle the pandemic.

Britain reported 1,325 coronavirus-related fatalities on Friday (Jan 8) - the highest ever daily increase in deaths - as it recorded another 68,053 infections.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last Monday that a lockdown will be imposed because a new variant of the virus was spreading in the country in a frustrating and alarming way. The lockdown took effect on Tuesday.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also declared a "major incident" on Friday, warning that hospitals in the city were close to being overrun.

Mr Khan said in a statement: "The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared with the peak of the pandemic last April.

"If we do not take immediate action now, our National Health Service could be overwhelmed and more people will die."

Germany on Friday reported its highest daily death toll of the pandemic, with 1,188 fatalities recorded in 24 hours. The previous record was 1,129 on Dec 30.

Here are some of the restrictions imposed by countries in Europe to fight the pandemic at the start of this year:

Britain

Britain has imposed a national lockdown that took effect last Tuesday and can last until March 31.

Colleges and primary and secondary schools remain closed for face-to-face learning except to the children of key workers and vulnerable students. University students will not be returning until at least the middle of next month.

Employees have been told to work from home, and leave home only for essential trips.

All non-essential shops and personal care services, such as hairdressers, will be closed and restaurants can offer only takeaway services.

Germany

Europe's largest economy is extending its nationwide lockdown until Jan 31.

New rules will for the first time restrict non-essential travel for residents of hard-hit areas all over Germany.

The rules limit movement in towns and districts where the number of new Covid-19 cases is above 200 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.

They also include a limit on gatherings, with members of any one household being allowed to meet only one other person.

Shops and restaurants will remain shut until Jan 31.

France

Health Minister Olivier Veran told local media last week that the government is not ruling out another lockdown after the previous one was replaced with a nationwide 8pm to 6am curfew on Dec 15.

Anyone breaking curfew is liable for a €135 (S$219) fine.

Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and public places such as cinemas and theatres remain closed.

The Netherlands

The country closed bars and restaurants in mid-October, and non-essential shops and businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres were shut from Dec 15. The Dutch have been advised to stay home and they may have a maximum of only two guests a day.

Poland

Public gatherings in Poland are limited to five people.

The Eastern European country introduced a three-week strict lockdown on Dec 28, with the closure of non-essential shops and all arrivals from abroad required to isolate for 10 days.

Hungary

All shops in Hungary remain open, but the country's borders are closed to almost all visitors, including citizens of other European Union nations. A night-time curfew is in force between 8pm and 5am.

Spain

Of the regional restrictions imposed in Spain, Catalonia has some of the strictest: Since last Thursday, people have been barred from leaving their municipality, gyms and shopping centres have been closed and only essential shops may stay open on weekends.

Bars and restaurants can open for breakfast and lunch, but offer only takeaways for dinner.

Madrid, where the 14-day case rate is among the country's highest, has rejected closing restaurants or non-essential shops - instead it has opted for a light-touch confinement of districts with a higher infection rate.

Italy

The country will extend most of the coronavirus restrictions imposed during the Christmas holiday season until this Friday. The government last Tuesday approved a decree-law that prohibits travel between the country's regions except for health or work reasons.

People who live in areas hit the hardest by Covid-19 will be permitted to "move" just once a day to another single private home in their municipality and there must not be more than two adults per group.

Bars and restaurants will provide only takeaway services.

A nationwide 10pm to 5am curfew remains and secondary schools, capped at a capacity of 50 per cent, are yet to reopen. Students who are to stay home will learn remotely.

Sweden

Last month, Sweden banned bars and restaurants from serving alcohol after 8pm, limited groups in restaurants to four and ordered shops and gyms to set a maximum number of customers.

Students aged 16 and above are to attend classes online and non-essential public services, such as swimming pools and libraries, remain closed. Face masks are recommended on public transport at busy times. A new law aimed at making it easier for the government to impose further restrictions should come into force today.

Norway

A nationwide ban on serving alcohol in restaurants and bars and on inviting guests home is in place following Prime Minister Erna Solberg's announcement last week.

Before that, the government announced that university lectures had been suspended and told students to stay home.

Shops, kindergartens and elementary schools will remain open.

Middle schools and high schools will also remain open, but will intensify use of remote learning.

On Dec 31, Oslo imposed mandatory Covid-19 tests for all people entering Norway from abroad, either upon arrival or within 24 hours.