Sunday, February 28, 2021

France brings in curfew as Europe gets tough for Christmas

Covid-19 is raging again across Europe and governments are ordering draconian restrictions for Christmas.

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France has replaced its second national lockdown with a night curfew which is expected to put a damper on Yuletide revels.

People in France are no longer required to download an official justification for leaving their homes during the day, but they will not be allowed out of the house between 8pm and 6am without an authorisation form. Spot checks will be carried out by police on anyone found on the streets.

Christmas Eve will be exempt from the curfew, but it will stay in place for New Year’s Eve. Bars and restaurants are to remain closed until at least Jan 20.

The number of people who have died from coronavirus infections in France rose by 790 on Tuesday to a total just short of 60,000. Daily infection rates are more than double the 5,000-a-day target.

Neighbouring Germany is introducing a hard Christmas lockdown from Wednesday after the number of infections there hit record levels. Non-essential shops will close across the country, as will schools. Restaurants, bars and leisure centres have already been shut in Germany since November.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed Christmas shopping for a “considerable” rise in infections. The new lockdown will run from Dec 16 to Jan 10 but will be relaxed from Dec 24 to 26 when one household will be able to invite a maximum of four close family members from other households.

In the Netherlands, a five-week lockdown is the strictest set of measures announced since the pandemic began. Non-essential shops, cinemas, hairdressers and gyms have all closed and schools will follow suit on Wednesday. People have also been told to refrain from booking non-essential travel abroad until mid-March.

Restrictions will be eased slightly for three days over Christmas, when Dutch households will be allowed three instead of two guests.

Italy’s daily death toll is still close to 500 and the government is considering a further tightening of measures over Christmas. The exact details are unclear, but a new lockdown could come into place between Christmas night and New Year. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the potential lockdown as a “new squeeze”.

In the UK, London will enter England’s highest tier of lockdown rules on Wednesday. Pubs and restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery, and indoor entertainment venues such as theatres, bowling alleys and cinemas must remain shut.

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