Europe may not be subject to the drastic lockdown measures introduced to combat the first wave of coronavirus a year ago, but many countries still face another Easter of very small gatherings and movements.
In FranceNew restrictions go into effect across the country starting at 7pm on Saturday limiting travel within 10km of home, without one of the allowed “imperative” reasons. Affidavits known as “attestations” will be required for anyone traveling outside of these rules.
These restrictions are already in effect in Paris and some other departments and were extended in an announcement by Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday night. The curfew has been extended from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. to the entire country. However, in a surprising move, Macron said there would be “tolerance” for people wishing to go beyond 10km this Easter weekend, until 7pm on Monday, which is a public holiday.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that after 7pm on Monday, when the tolerance ends, police and gendarmes will be dispatched to ensure that the rules are followed. From that moment on, interregional travel is prohibited.
French people are encouraged not to gather for Easter family gatherings due to the increased risk of contamination and spread of the coronavirus.
Travel in and out of the country is not recommended and is subject to Covid-19 rules and tests. It’s easier to enter France from another EU nation, but travelers must still show a negative Covid PCR test. From the UK, you can only enter France under certain stricter conditions, which also apply to arrivals from other countries. The rules don’t apply to the thousands of cross-border workers.
In Belgium, this year’s Easter holidays officially take place between Saturday 3 and Sunday 18 April, but began a week before for students and parents. The government closed schools effective March 26 as part of a tightening of its long-term lockdown.
As part of its response to rising infections, the government also maintained a ban on non-essential travel in and out of the country, a move criticized by the European Commission. The tourism ban will be in effect until the end of the holiday period. So-called “non-essential” trips are still allowed within the country, which means that it is possible to take day trips or a few days away from home. Holiday parks, hotels and campsites are open, but restaurants and bars are closed.
After the recent chaotic scenes at the Brussels-Midi train station, where large crowds of people were left waiting for trains to the coast, people are advised to avoid visiting resorts such as Ostend and Knokke. Belgian rail company SNCB says that by Easter it is reducing capacity on trains to the coast by 50%, with only window seats used in services.
Spain remains in a state of emergency and subject to a nightly curfew that varies from region to region as a fourth wave of the virus begins to take its toll.
Travel between different regions is not allowed except for emergency reasons, denying many Spaniards their Easter excursions or visits to celebrate with their extended relatives. The restrictions have bothered some people, especially since visitors from other European countries can travel to Spain by air or by sea as long as they have a negative result on a PCR test performed no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Travel between the Balearic Islands is allowed, but bars and restaurants must close at 5:00 p.m. and the night curfew applies from 10:00 p.m. Groups in bars and restaurants are limited to four people.
A recent influx of French tourists who have traveled to Madrid to escape the restrictions of confinement at home has surprised Spain, but their presence has been well received by the hotel industry. Spaniards can also travel abroad, subject to the rules governing visits to other countries.
This week PortugalThe Interior Ministry announced that people arriving from countries with an incidence rate of more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the previous 14 days would have to be quarantined for two weeks and could only conduct essential business.
All arriving passengers must submit a negative PCR test from the previous 24 hours. Flights to and from the UK and Brazil remain prohibited, except for repatriation flights.
Portugal was subjected to a second lockdown in mid-January, and on January 28 saw a record one-day count of 16,500 new infections. Since then, there has been a drop in cases, which has allowed the government to gradually ease restrictions.
In Greece, small retail stores will reopen their doors starting Monday in so-called “click-away” and “click-in-shop” modes, which means consumers will have to make appointments and meet a three-hour limit to make purchases.
Starting Saturday, people will be able to drive beyond the limits of their municipality to exercise or get some fresh air.
Travel in and out of Germany It is theoretically allowed, but travelers must provide a negative Covid proof before boarding an inbound flight, whether the area they are traveling from is classified as a ‘risk area’ or not.
Holiday travel within Germany is discouraged, and hotels across the country can only accommodate travelers for “necessary and expressly non-tourist” purposes, such as people on business trips. The same rule applies to campsites.
Outdoor Easter egg hunts with grandparents are allowed, though staying with them over the weekend is only allowed for small groups. No more than five people over the age of 14 and from two separate households are allowed to gather inside.
The whole of Italy will be in a “red zone” lockdown over Easter weekend, with travel bans beyond the cities or regions of origin. However, people are still able to travel abroad, a move that sparked much anger among Italians amid airport scenes of their fellow citizens preparing to flee to places like the Canary Islands for the Easter holidays. Last week, the government made it mandatory for anyone arriving from an EU country before April 6 to self-quarantine for five days and undergo a Covid-19 test at the end of the quarantine. Similar measures had already been taken for non-EU countries.
The red zone measures are not as harsh as those that were enforced last spring, as people are not required to stay home. They can walk or exercise close to home, and a maximum of two people (not counting children under the age of 14) can visit another home within their city no more than once a day. Families can also travel to second homes, as well as in regions where it is prohibited, such as Sardinia and Valle d’Aosta.
Ireland remains under top-level pandemic restrictions, with a 5km travel limit and a mandatory 12-day hotel quarantine for travelers from 32 high-risk countries. As of April 6, another 26 countries, none from the EU, will be added to the quarantine list.
Health officials wanted to add even more countries, including France, Germany, Italy and the United States, but faced resistance from the attorney general and the Foreign Ministry.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism