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COVID-19

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

Quarantine, schools, shops and borders closed, gatherings banned, here are the main measures that have been taken so far in Europe to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

The World Health Organization warned Friday that Europe was now the “epicentre” for the global coronavirus pandemic and reporting more daily cases than China did at the height of its outbreak. 

“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a virtual press conference, describing the more than 5,000 deaths worldwide as “a tragic milestone”.

Confinement

Italy's population of 60 million has to stay at home until April 3, but can go out to work, for health reasons or to buy food.

In Spain, four parts of the northeastern region of Catalonia have been quarantined, as have two communes in the Austrian region of Tyrol.

Austrians returning from Italy will be confined.

People returning from the main coronavirus hotspots must stay at home for two weeks in Croatia, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia.

In Norway, all people returning from abroad will be quarantined and some cities have banned people from disembarking from cruise ships, a measure also taken by Portugal and Spain.

In Luxembourg and Portugal visits to retirement homes are banned, while in Belgium they are either prohibited or strictly limited. They are restricted in Sweden. 

In France visits are suspended in establishments housing elderly and dependent people.

Restaurants and shops closed

In Italy only essential shops selling foodstuffs or healthcare items are allowed to open.

Austria has decided to close non-essential shops from Monday and to close cafes and restaurants at 3:00 pm.

Bulgaria has closed non-essential shops.

In Belgium, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants will be closed until April 3. Shops will be closed at the weekend, except for grocers and chemists

In the Czech Republic, restaurants must close between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Madrid authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to close their outside areas.

Borders controlled or closed

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have announced the almost total closure of their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles.

Ukraine plans to close its borders to foreigners for at least two weeks.

Poland has imposed health checks at all it borders.

Austria has suspended rail links, and almost entirely closed its border with Italy, requiring medical certificates and health checks from people seeking entry. It has also suspended air links with France, Spain and 
Switzerland.

Slovenia has also set up health vetting measures at the border with Italy.

Germany has strengthened checks at the French border.

Schools closed

Schools and universities are closed in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Ukraine.

Pupils will also stay at home next week in Belgium, Croatia, France, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland, and in most German regions.

Gatherings banned

In Belgium, Cyprus and Italy all gatherings have been banned.

The Czech Republic has banned meetings of more than 30 people.

Denmark and France are to drop the threshold to 100 people.

Iceland, from midnight on Sunday, and the Netherlands and Switzerland have outlawed gatherings of more than 100 people as have Austria, Hungary and Romania for indoor meetings, with 500 for those outdoors.

Finland and Sweden have set the bar at 500 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on organisers to cancel non essential events gathering less than 1,000 people, a threshold also in force in Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

Moscow has banned meetings of more than 5,000 people.

Transport disrupted

Rome's second airport, Ciampino, is to close from Friday evening, while Fiumicino, which handles international flights, is to close one of its three terminals from March 17.

In Slovakia all international airports are closed.

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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