From family “bubbles” to no fireworks, the U.K., France, Italy and now Germany have released further details of what will, and will not, be allowed this Christmas and New Year. Scientists have warned a relaxation of critically important public health measures over the Christmas period could lead to greater transmission of the virus, and potentially further deaths.
Meanwhile, policymakers have sought to underscore the morale-boosting effect of allowing families and friends to meet after a difficult year. There are hopes that the holidays might be able to retain some merriment after all. Here’s what Europeans can expect at Christmas 2020:
you can only be in one Christmas bubble
you cannot change your Christmas bubble
you can travel between tiers and U.K. nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble
you can only meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or in your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces
you cannot meet someone in a private dwelling who is not part of your household or Christmas bubble
From Dec. 15, lockdown in France will be lifted further if the health situation permits. This could allow people in France (who under lockdown could not leave their homes without specific reason, to go food shopping, for example) will be able to travel around the country and to see family and friends. A curfew will remain in place between 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. but this will not apply on Christmas Eve, or on New Year’s Eve, although no big public gatherings will be allowed. For skiing fans, there might not be such a merry Christmas this year, with President Macron saying in a televised address Tuesday that a decision has not yet been made over whether ski resorts will be allowed to open this year.
Italy’s prime minister also set out the country’s restrictions, or rather rule relaxations, earlier this week, telling the nation that while he had ruled out big get-togethers at Christmas, the country should not have any so-called high Covid-risk “red zones” by the time of the holidays. If red zones are lifted in time for Christmas, Italians will be able to visit family elsewhere in Italy. For now, however, Calabria, Lombardy, Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta are red zones with residents unable to leave until Dec. 3. As in France, Conte has not made a decision regarding Italian ski resorts.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with federal state leaders on Wednesday to decide on what restrictions to lift for Christmas, just as the number of daily cases of coronavirus and deaths from Covid-19 remain worryingly high in the country that has, until recently, seemingly been less badly affected by the pandemic than its neighbors. Germany’s 16 states, which have largely been allowed to set their own restrictions, came together with Merkel and decided to extend what’s been seen as a “lockdown lite” (with shops and schools open but bars and restaurants shut) until Dec. 20, in order that the restrictions can be relaxed over Christmas — before they are then tightened up again into January. In the run up to Christmas (starting December 1) the number of people that can meet socially will be limited to five, but this will then be raised to 10 people over the Christmas and New Year period (Dec. 23 to Jan. 1) to allow friends and family to meet (children under 14 are exempt from the limit). Germans are being encouraged to avoid contacts for seven days before Christmas to try to minimize the chance of infection. New Year’s Eve could be a quieter affair in Germany this year, with the letting off of fireworks in public areas banned in “busy streets and squares.” Ski tourism has also been banned until at least January 10.