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COVID-19 restrictions as Europe grapples with the pandemic

Britain, whose economy has been among the hardest hit in Europe by the pandemic, announces a road map out of its COVID-19 restrictions aided by one of the world’s fastest vaccine roll outs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets out his four-step plan to release England from lockdown.

Step one, on 8 March, will see schools reopening and two people allowed to meet outdoors for a chat. From 29 March, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. Outdoor sports, including football, golf and tennis, will resume from 29 March as well.

Step two would see shops, hairdressers and gyms reopen from 12 April in England. Also from 12 April, outdoor hospitality will resume, as well as zoos and theme parks.

Step three would start on 17 May with most social contact rules lifted, as well as limited mixing indoors

The prime minister hopes that step four, from 21 June, would see the end of all legal limits on COVID-19 restrictions on social contact

COVID-19 restrictions elsewhere in Europe:

GERMANY

Non-essential stores remain closed until at least March 7. Restaurants can offer meals for take-out only. Museums, gyms and cinemas are closed, and hotels open only to business travelers. Schools in some federal states are partially re-opening from Feb. 22. Companies must offer staff the option to work from home where possible.

FRANCE

A nationwide curfew is in place between the hours of 1800 and 0600. Schools and shops are open but cafes, restaurants and bars aren’t, along with theaters, cinemas, museums and galleries. There is no date for the reopening. Anyone entering France must produce a negative COVID-19 test; entering France from outside the European Union is impossible, except for urgent reasons.

ITALY

The country has red, orange, yellow and white zones and restrictions vary accordingly. At present, seven regions and two provinces are in the orange zone; the rest are yellow. Orange zone means bars and restaurants stay closed and people cannot leave their towns of residence except for work or emergencies. Schools remain closed in these regions but open, at least partly, in yellow zones. Theaters, cinemas and gyms are closed nationwide. Travel between regions is subject to limits.

SPAIN

Covid-19 restrictions vary, with Madrid taking a relaxed approach and allowing customers to eat and drink inside bars and restaurants until 11 p.m. Most other regions are much stricter, but some have started to ease local travel restrictions and reopen non-essential businesses as infections decline, though curfews remain in place between 10 p.m. and midnight nationwide. Schools are open.

NETHERLANDS

Schools, non-essential stores, bars and restaurants are all shut. A curfew from 9 p.m. to 04:30 a.m. has been in place since January 23 and might be extended. Elementary schools and day care centers opened their doors on Feb. 8; hairdressers and high schools will open next week. Those arriving in the Netherlands must provide two negative COVID-19 test results.

SWITZERLAND

The government has proposed allowing the first easing steps from March 1, when shops, museums and libraries can reopen pending a final green light on Wednesday. Private outdoor events with up to 15 people will go on, up from the current limit of five. Schools and many ski lifts remain open, but restaurants and cultural venues closed. Additional easing may follow from April 1 if infection rates allow.

POLAND

On Feb. 12, Poland reopened ski slopes, as well as hotels, cinemas and theaters, at a maximum of 50% capacity for a two-week trial. Shopping centers are open, but restaurants only serve food to take away and bars are closed. Children in kindergartens and the first three years of primary school attend lessons as normal; older children study remotely.

SWEDEN

Businesses and schools remain largely open, with a focus primarily on voluntary social distancing. High schools for students aged 16 and above have partly moved online. Meanwhile alcohol sale at bars and restaurants stops at 8.00 pm. Public gatherings of more than eight people are largely forbidden. Various restrictions also apply for foreign nationals entering Sweden and domestic travel.

BELGIUM

Shops, hairdressers, swimming pools and schools can open, although secondary students are only at school half of the time. Beauty parlors may reopen from March 1. Cafes and restaurants are shut and non-essential foreign travel is banned until April 1. Working from home is mandatory where possible.

AUSTRIA

A lockdown was eased this month despite high infections. Shops and hairdressers are now open and schools have in-person lessons, with daily testing. A nighttime curfew is in place and there are restrictions on leaving Tyrol province because of an outbreak of the South African variant. No easing measures until Easter at the earliest.

HUNGARY

An 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is in effect with few exceptions; e.g., essential to move for work, health reasons, walking dog close to home). Restaurants serve takeout and delivery. No large public gatherings. Cultural venues closed, with events online only. Secondary schools and universities are closed, elementary schools open. Healthcare workers and teachers will undergo weekly tests.

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