Covid: How is Europe lifting lockdown restrictions?
The pace of Europe’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign has picked up and in many countries infection rates have been falling.
Lockdowns are gradually being eased ahead of summer and the tourist season, and the EU’s 27 member states aim to have a digital vaccination certificate for travel working by the end of June.
France eased restrictions on 3 May. A domestic travel ban was lifted, enabling people to travel further than 10km (six miles) from home again, without needing to carry a form justifying travel.
Secondary school students went back to classes; nurseries and primary schools had reopened earlier.
From 19 May outdoor service is expected to resume at bars, cafes, and restaurants, and spectators are to be allowed back into sports venues, albeit with limited numbers. Museums, cinemas and non-essential shops are set to reopen too, again with limited numbers and strict hygiene.
From that date too the night-time curfew is to start two hours later at 21:00, and eventually be lifted at the end of June.
A controversial new lockdown law enables Germany’s federal government to impose an overnight curfew and shut schools wherever infection rates rise too high
Cities or areas that exceed a rate of 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants for three consecutive days have to impose the measures.
The law will remain in place until 30 June.
The good news is that in much of Germany infection rates have been coming down. So several German states are planning to start easing restrictions, after more than six months of lockdown.
Berlin plans to lift a night curfew and ease shopping restrictions from 19 May and allow outdoor dining from 21 May, if the infection rate remains below 100.
Most of Italy is now in a “yellow zone” which means that bars and restaurants are open. There is the freedom to travel between “yellow” regions.
Most students are back at school, and some outdoor cultural events are allowed.
A curfew between 22:00 and 05:00 remains in place nationwide and masks are compulsory in all public spaces, indoors and outdoors.
Denmark has lifted many restrictions – shops and eating places have reopened.
The government has also introduced a “corona pass” for everyone over the age of 15.
This pass, available on a mobile phone or on paper, shows whether people have been vaccinated, previously infected, or have had a negative test in the past 72 hours.
People need to show it for entry to bars, restaurants, museums, or hairdressers, or to attend football matches.
Since 15 May, the government has allowed any tourist to visit the country, if they have been vaccinated or can provide a negative coronavirus test.
Tourism is a vital sector, accounting for about a fifth of the Greek economy and one in five workers. But Covid made 2020 Greece’s worst year on record for tourism.
Greece is not on the UK’s “green” list for travel, so any British tourists will still have to quarantine after their trip.
In early May Greece reopened its beaches, bars, and restaurants, though numbers are still restricted. The overnight curfew has been pushed back by an hour to accommodate evening diners.
As of 15 May, people in Poland no longer have to wear face masks outdoors, provided they can maintain a social distance of at least 1.5m (5ft). But masks remain compulsory in indoor public spaces and on public transport.
Museums and art galleries have reopened, with strict hygiene and social distancing.
Other restrictions were also eased on 15 May, albeit with the same strict hygiene and limits on numbers. Open-air theatres and cinemas reopened, along with cultural centers and after-school clubs. Outdoor gatherings including weddings and funerals can have up to 25 people attending.
Indoor activities and businesses – including weddings, restaurants, and cinemas – are expected to reopen again on 29 May, although limits on numbers and set distances will remain in place.
The Czech Republic
The infection rate has fallen to its lowest level since the end of last summer, so small shops have reopened, along with some cultural venues, albeit with limits on numbers.
Face masks no longer have to be worn outdoors in urban areas, provided 2m social distancing can be maintained.
Outside table service in pubs and restaurants resumed on 17 May.
The government says Spain will welcome tourists from June, following a pilot trial of digital health certificates at its airports in May.
Tourism Minister Fernando Valdes said that Spain “will be ready” to use a Covid passport by June.
Some regions of Spain have started lifting restrictions. Catalonia now allows movement between zones, and in Valencia, restrictions on the numbers of people allowed into bars and restaurants are being further eased.
From 16 May some top football clubs allowed spectators back into their stadiums for La Liga matches, notably Valencia and Villareal. But stadiums can be no more than one-third full.
Schools have reopened and a ban on non-essential travel was lifted in April. Hairdressers and various other businesses are also open.
On 8 May outdoor service resumed at cafes and restaurants, after almost seven months of lockdown. But theatres and cinemas remain closed.
The government aims to ease restrictions further on 9 June, provided the number of Covid patients in intensive care remains under 500.
So from 9 June indoor venues for drinking, dining, and entertainment are to reopen as well as cinemas and theatres, with a maximum of 200 guests.
A state of emergency ended on 3 May. Lockdown in Portugal has been gradually eased, with pupils now back in schools. The land border with Spain has reopened.
Museums, hair salons, and restaurant and cafe terraces have reopened.
Restrictions on numbers in sports activities have been removed and higher capacity limits for weddings and baptisms and big outdoor events introduced.
Portugal is among the few countries on the UK’s green list for tourism, so it is expecting many British tourists this summer. The city of Porto will host the European Champions League final on 29 May, when 12,000 fans are expected to travel from the UK.
A controversial three-month curfew, which sparked protests and legal challenges, ended on 28 April.
Other lockdown measures are also being lifted. But the next round of easing was postponed until 18 May, as the infection rate did not drop as much as was hoped. Gyms, zoos and other leisure facilities remain shut.
Outdoor areas in cafes have reopened – limits remain for the number of customers, and reservations are required.
The Eurovision song contest, scheduled for Rotterdam between 18 and 22 May will go ahead with a live audience – although several acts were forced to miss the opening ceremony after outbreaks at their hotel or within their delegation.
The Dutch government has confirmed 3,500 people will be allowed to watch six dress rehearsals and three live performances inside the city’s Ahoy Arena.
Republic of Ireland
The Irish government declared 10 May a “day of freedom” as many restrictions were eased. Ireland had been at the highest level of restriction – level five – since Christmas.
Hairdressers, museums, libraries, and galleries reopened. Irish citizens were free to travel again outside their home county, and sports training resumed.
All remaining shops opened on 17 May, with hotels and B&Bs set to operate again from 2 June.
From 7 June, restaurants and bars can open outside for groups of up to six customers, and outdoor sports matches can be played again – but with no spectators.
Sweden tried to avoid imposing rules when other countries were in lockdown, but new emergency laws now give the government the power to impose coronavirus-related curbs.
Visitor limits are in force in shops and public venues and in cafes and restaurants.
Citizens are also asked to wear a face mask on public transport and indoor public spaces such as shops.
A move to increase the number attending sports and cultural events was delayed until 1 June, as the government said Covid was still putting too much strain on the health service.