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COVID-19

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

Quarantine, schools, shops and borders closed, gatherings banned, here are the main measures that have been taken so far in Europe to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

The World Health Organization warned Friday that Europe was now the “epicentre” for the global coronavirus pandemic and reporting more daily cases than China did at the height of its outbreak. 

“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a virtual press conference, describing the more than 5,000 deaths worldwide as “a tragic milestone”.

Confinement

Italy's population of 60 million has to stay at home until April 3, but can go out to work, for health reasons or to buy food.

In Spain, four parts of the northeastern region of Catalonia have been quarantined, as have two communes in the Austrian region of Tyrol.

Austrians returning from Italy will be confined.

People returning from the main coronavirus hotspots must stay at home for two weeks in Croatia, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia.

In Norway, all people returning from abroad will be quarantined and some cities have banned people from disembarking from cruise ships, a measure also taken by Portugal and Spain.

In Luxembourg and Portugal visits to retirement homes are banned, while in Belgium they are either prohibited or strictly limited. They are restricted in Sweden. 

In France visits are suspended in establishments housing elderly and dependent people.

Restaurants and shops closed

In Italy only essential shops selling foodstuffs or healthcare items are allowed to open.

Austria has decided to close non-essential shops from Monday and to close cafes and restaurants at 3:00 pm.

Bulgaria has closed non-essential shops.

In Belgium, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants will be closed until April 3. Shops will be closed at the weekend, except for grocers and chemists

In the Czech Republic, restaurants must close between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Madrid authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to close their outside areas.

Borders controlled or closed

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have announced the almost total closure of their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles.

Ukraine plans to close its borders to foreigners for at least two weeks.

Poland has imposed health checks at all it borders.

Austria has suspended rail links, and almost entirely closed its border with Italy, requiring medical certificates and health checks from people seeking entry. It has also suspended air links with France, Spain and 
Switzerland.

Slovenia has also set up health vetting measures at the border with Italy.

Germany has strengthened checks at the French border.

Schools closed

Schools and universities are closed in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Ukraine.

Pupils will also stay at home next week in Belgium, Croatia, France, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland, and in most German regions.

Gatherings banned

In Belgium, Cyprus and Italy all gatherings have been banned.

The Czech Republic has banned meetings of more than 30 people.

Denmark and France are to drop the threshold to 100 people.

Iceland, from midnight on Sunday, and the Netherlands and Switzerland have outlawed gatherings of more than 100 people as have Austria, Hungary and Romania for indoor meetings, with 500 for those outdoors.

Finland and Sweden have set the bar at 500 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on organisers to cancel non essential events gathering less than 1,000 people, a threshold also in force in Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

Moscow has banned meetings of more than 5,000 people.

Transport disrupted

Rome's second airport, Ciampino, is to close from Friday evening, while Fiumicino, which handles international flights, is to close one of its three terminals from March 17.

In Slovakia all international airports are closed.

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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