How England's COVID restrictions compare to the rest of Europe

·7 min read
Boris Johnson has some difficult decisions to make after Christmas as Omicron continues to spread throughout the UK. (Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has some difficult decisions to make after Christmas as Omicron continues to spread throughout the UK. (Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has confirmed there will be no further restrictions imposed in England before Christmas.

However, the government hasn't ruled out introducing new measures after 25 December, as it monitors the spread of Omicron cases across the country.

Despite the UK reporting more than 100,000 new cases on Wednesday – the highest since the pandemic began – the prime minister has stuck to a wait-and-see approach for now.

In the rest of the UK and Europe, however, some countries are reinstating lockdown restrictions. Yahoo News UK runs down who's doing what and where:

England

Under Plan B rules introduced last week face masks must be worn in most indoor public spaces, except for pubs and restaurants, and a COVID pass has to be shown before entering certain venues.

All NHS and social care staff will have to be vaccinated by April, unless they are medically exempt, and people are being advised to work from home if they are able to.

Passengers are seen wearing face masks on the London Underground after Sadiq Khan declared a major incident in the capital following a surge in Omicron cases. (Getty Images)
Passengers are seen wearing face masks on the London Underground after Sadiq Khan declared a major incident in the capital following a surge in Omicron cases. (Getty Images)

While some are urging the government to introduce tougher measures before Christmas, Plan B has also been criticised as being too restrictive.

It has been described as a "hammer blow" to the retail and hospitality sectors which were looking forward to using Christmas to make up for last year's losses.

Wales

New measures are to be introduced in Wales from 6am on Boxing Day.

They include:

  • two-metre social distancing in premises open to the public and workplaces,

  • the 'rule of six' in promises such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres

  • table service and the collecting of contact details in pubs and bars

  • face coverings in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated

  • maximum numbers of people who can gather: 30 at an indoor event 30 and 50 outdoors

  • 50 spectators can gather for team sports in addition to those taking part with exceptions for events involving children.

Scotland

From Boxing Day, for “up to three weeks”, new rules mean a maximum of 500 people can attend outdoor events where physical distancing of one metre is in place. Indoor standing events will be limited to 100 spectators, and indoor seated events to 200.

For three weeks from 27 January, pubs and other venues selling alcohol will also be required to offer table service only.

Care home visits have been limited to two households

Northern Ireland

Indoor gatherings should have no more than 30 people present, and working from home is also recommended.

Those wishing to access nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises will need to provide proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test result, or evidence of a previous Covid-19 infection.

The same rules will apply for entry to large indoor and outdoor events such as concerts and sporting events.

Europe

COVID cases (OWID)

France

France is seeing its fifth wave of coronavirus infections, with health minister Olivier Veran warning that the country could soon be seeing 100,000 new cases a day.

France recorded 72,882 new cases on Tuesday, a massive jump from 15,132 the previous day.

However, instead of imposing a lockdown, the French government is relying on softer restrictions and vaccinations to stop its health care system being overwhelmed by Omicron patients.

French President Emmanuel Macron has so far ruled out another lockdown. (Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron has so far ruled out another lockdown. (Getty Images)

The country has maintained a strict mask-wearing policy, with compulsory face coverings on all public transport and indoor public venues, including bars, restaurants and cafes.

Many local authorities have even made mask wearing compulsory outdoors.

In July, the French government introduced a vaccinate mandate for all health care workers and since August, people have been required to show a health pass before entering indoor public spaces, which displays proof of vaccination, recent recovery from coronavirus or a negative test taken within the past 24 hours.

President Emmanuel Macron said that the government is also considering mandatory vaccines for all French citizens in the near future.

72% of France has received two jabs already.

Germany

On Wednesday, the German government announced new limits on socialising after Christmas, with expectations that Omicron will become dominant in January.

Germany recorded 64,949 new cases on Tuesday, a huge increase from 21,742 the day before.

From 28 December, private gatherings will be limited to just 10 vaccinated people.

Big events such as football matches will go ahead, but without an audience.

A busy market in Gissen, Germany as the German government promises not to cancel Christmas. (Getty Images)
A busy market in Gissen, Germany as the German government promises not to cancel Christmas. (Getty Images)

Currently, Germans must present a health pass when visiting non-essential shops.

It's likely that mandatory vaccines for health and social care workers will come into force in February as the government tries to increase its vaccination rate which currently stands at 70.3%.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated people are only permitted to meet with a maximum of two people from outside their household.

"Coronavirus doesn't take a Christmas break," Germany's new Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

The Netherlands

Dutch people are facing yet another Christmas in lockdown as all restaurants, gyms, museums, and non-essential shops in the Netherlands closed on Sunday and are not expected to re-open until at least 14 January.

9,484 new cases were detected on Tuesday.

While this is a big decrease from the beginning of the month when there were 18,595 new cases, infections are expected to start rising again as Omicron becomes dominant in the next few weeks.

The lockdown means that households are only permitted two guests, apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 26 December and the New Year's when four guests are allowed.

Photo taken on 20 December 2021 showing an empty shopping street in Haarlem, the Netherlands. (Getty Images)
Photo taken on 20 December 2021 showing an empty shopping street in Haarlem, the Netherlands. (Getty Images)

This follows a strict curfew imposed at the end of November in which shops, bars and restaurants were forced to close 5pm and 5am.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said that the new restrictions put him in a "sombre mood" but that they are "unavoidable because of the fifth wave caused by the Omicron variant that is bearing down on us".

Boosters are currently being offered to people aged over 60 who received their last jab three months ago.

So far, 65.9% of the Netherlands have received two doses.

Italy

In Italy, the government is preparing an emergency decree to tackle COVID following a recent spike in cases.

30,798 positive Covid tests were recorded on Tuesday, the highest daily increase since November 2020.

Prime minister Mario Draghi will meet with regional leaders on Thursday to discuss which new measures will be imposed.

At the moment, it's mandatory to wear a face covering in all indoor public venues in Italy and some regions have imposed mandatory masks outdoors.

San Gerardo Hospital during the opening day of vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years old on December 16, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Getty Images)
San Gerardo Hospital during the opening day of vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years old on December 16, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Getty Images)

Italians are also required to show a 'Green Pass' when entering public indoor spaces - a certificate which shows that the holder has received a vaccine, has recovered recently COVID or tested negative within the past 48 hours.

This includes public transport and workplaces.

The new measures may include a 'super Green Pass' which people can only obtain if they have a vaccine or have recently had COVID.

This means unvaccinated people will not be able to obtain a pass, even if they test negative.

73.7% of Italians have received two jabs to date.

Our World in Data
Our World in Data

The rest of Europe

All European countries are having to make serious decisions about how to deal with Omicron.

In Portugal, bars and nightclubs will shut from 26 December and people will be required to work from home for the next two weeks. Outside gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

Spain has recorded its highest number of infections since the pandemic began, with 49,823 new cases on Tuesday.

However, the Spanish government has promised that families will be able to spend Christmas together and is relying on its booster programme to curb infections, instead of drawing up plans for a lockdown.

In Sweden, people are being advised to work from home and bars, cafes and restaurants will only be able to serve seated guests from Wednesday.

Health minister Lena Hallengren has also warned that "the burden on the health care system is increasing."

* Vaccination statistics are taken from the Our World in Data resource and refer to the share of people vaccinated in the population eligible for vaccination

Watch: Extremely difficult Omicron surge grips Europe

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