Europe, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

European countries relaxing COVID-19 restrictions gradually

With strong measures, vaccinations, lower number of cases, countries start new normalization plans

Zuhal Demirci   | 18.05.2021
European countries relaxing COVID-19 restrictions gradually


European states have begun to gradually relax restrictions against the pandemic as vaccinations pick up pace and new virus cases decrease.

The four most affected nations -- UK, France, Spain, and Italy -- have decided to gradually relax restrictions.

In the UK, museums and theaters reopened after 132 days. At most, 30 people are allowed to come together in open spaces, six in closed places, and up to 30 in weddings. Restaurants and bars now can serve customers indoors. A maximum of 10,000 fans are allowed to attend sports events.

The government has lifted mandatory mask-wearing in middle schools, while college students can attend classes face-to-face if they take COVID-19 tests twice a week.

Belgium is expected to take new normalization steps in June, July, and August if the positive outlook remains strong. The government has said it will closely watch the current situation in intensive care units of hospitals and the pace of vaccinations.

The number of adults among the population that would receive the first dose of a vaccine is expected to reach 50% on June 9 when restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to start serving customers indoors.

Gyms, play yards for children, and movie theaters will also be open to the public after that date.

Spain and Italy

Spain had extensive quarantine measures from the end of October until the beginning of May, but it softened most of the restrictions on May 9 when intercity travel restrictions were removed. Midnight curfews were removed in most places except Valencia and Balearic Islands.

People are allowed to visit homes limited to six individuals. Bars and restaurants allow four customers indoors and six outdoors. Those establishments are allowed to work at a 50% capacity indoors, and at a 75% capacity outdoors. Parks, zoos, museums, and movie theaters are reopened with limited capacities.

In some cities where the pandemic is still strong, however, there are some restrictions, such as the capital Madrid.

Spain continues to restrict travel to Brazil, India, and South Africa, and forces mandatory quarantine for visitors from those countries. The government requires a negative PCR test for visitors from other counties.

Italy also had strict restrictions since March but gradually removed them for April 26 in 15 of the 21 regions. Daily new cases in the country have fallen below 10,000 in the last week.

Restaurants, bars and cafes are now open to business but they have to serve outdoors, while movie theaters welcome people with half capacity. Travel restrictions have been removed in regions with low risks.

The government said Monday it will remove midnight curfews gradually starting from Wednesday, while they will completely be scrapped from June 21 onwards.

Italy has also removed the mandatory 5-day quarantine requirement for travelers coming from EU member countries, the UK, and Israel.

Germany and Austria

Germany is removing the midnight curfew in regions that show 100 new daily cases for three consecutive days.

While restaurants, cafes and bars will continue to be closed, restaurants in some regions will be able to serve customers outdoors.

People who provide a negative test result will be able to enter stores. Schools will be reopened if weekly new cases slide below 35, from 100,000. Currently, children attending primary schools are allowed in classrooms if they do have tests twice a week.

Austria has suspended services in restaurants, hotels and tourism facilities since November 2020 when the second wave of the pandemic hit the country. It still has night curfews.

Foreign visitors are subject to a mandatory 5-day quarantine, but can remove themselves from the quarantine after a negative test result.

After teachers were vaccinated, coupled with de-escalation in daily new cases, all schools have moved forward to face-to-face education with full capacity as of Monday. Students, however, are asked to have tests regularly.

The country will also see most restaurants, hotels and sports centers reopen from Tuesday onwards. Individuals will be allowed to enter those facilities with green IDs that show them they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

In Czechia, restaurants reopened to provide services outdoors. Sports centers are back in business with certain precautions, while primary schools are now open. A maximum of 700 people are allowed to get together in open spaces.

After the number of new cases rapidly declined in Bulgaria, most of the restrictions are now lifted. Public transportation and closed spaces, however, still require mandatory mask-wearing.

After shopping malls and gyms reopened in mid-April, nightclubs and casinos opened as well since the beginning of May.

France and Hungary

France is relaxing restrictions on four levels. The intercity travel ban was lifted on May 3. Restaurants and cafes reopened on Tuesday, as well as stores, museums, and movie theaters. Curfew hours have been relaxed and will completely end on June 30.

The country, however, still has a mandatory 10-day quarantine requirement for tourists coming from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

In Hungary, more than half of the population has been vaccinated, and thus most of the restrictions have been lifted gradually.

Vaccinated people can go to restaurants, hotels, zoos, museums, movie theaters, libraries, swimming pools and gyms, along with attending games in stadiums.

However, wearing face masks and midnight curfews still continue in the country.

Romania has lifted most of the restrictions on May 15, including mandatory mask-wearing excepts markets, public transportation, and stations.

While restaurants and cafes' open spaces can work in full capacity, closed spaces can work with 50% capacity. Weddings can be attended in the open air with 70 people, but only with 50 people in closed spaces.

The country does not quarantine individuals coming from abroad if they are vaccinated.

Switzerland and Holland

Switzerland plans to gradually remove restrictions starting from May 31 when restaurants are planned to reopen indoors.

Universities will limit face-to-face meetings to up to 50 people.

The government said it believes vaccinated and treated people are now immune, thus there is no need for quarantine or mask-wearing.

Switzerland still has Turkey on its list of risk-bearing countries. Travelers from Turkey need to stay in quarantine for 10 days when they visit Switzerland.

Holland has moved to the second phase of loosening restrictions on Tuesday. It will reopen dancing, music and art schools on Wednesday, along with amusement parks, theaters, and museums.

Gyms and indoor swimming pools will reopen as long as they have a 30-people capacity.

Bosnia has removed mandatory mask-wearing in open spaces while Slovenia has started face-to-face education in high schools and universities. Croatia still limits attendance in weddings and funerals, while Serbia wants people to wear masks in open places where social distancing is not possible.

*Written by Ovunc Kutlu

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