Live updates: The coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant


People queue at a vaccine certificate control booth at the Christmas market in Salzburg on December 17, 2021. Photo by BARBARA GINDL/APA via Getty Images

Surging outbreaks of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant have forced a number of European governments to adopt new measures restricting Christmas and New Year festivities.

Here are some of the curbs recently announced across the continent:

France has banned big outdoor events and gatherings on New Year’s Eve. The consumption of alcohol in public spaces will also be banned and the traditional New Year’s fireworks and concerts are scrapped.

In the Netherlands, a strict lockdown started on December 19. Indoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of two guests until January 14, except on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when that limit is extended to four guests. All schools and extracurricular activities will also close until at least January 9. 

Belgium has canceled indoor events and activities, including indoor Christmas markets and villages, cinema showings, and shows starting Sunday. Those measures extend to indoor spaces of amusement parks and zoos.

In Germany, strict contact restrictions rule out any large New Year’s Eve gatherings. From December 28, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed to meet in groups, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or recovered. Non-vaccinated people may use public transport only with a daily negative Covid-19 test. Nightclubs and discos in Germany will remain closed. Football matches will once again be played without spectators.

Since Monday, only those with vaccine passports or proof of recovery are allowed inside restaurants and indoor event spaces in Switzerland and masks must be worn at all times unless consuming food or drink. Private gatherings are limited to 10 people if there is one person from age 16 present who is unvaccinated or has not recovered from Covid-19.

Austria will impose a new 10 p.m. closing time on the hospitality sector as of December 27, which will remain in place on New Year’s Eve. Only vaccinated or recovered people are allowed to visit Christmas markets. People who have no proof of either vaccination or recovery may only leave their accommodation for important supplies, to go to work, and for exercise.

Denmark has shut cinemas, theatres, and museums, while also prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and asking hospitality venues to shut earlier.

Spain has reinstated its nationwide mandate for wearing masks outdoors — with exceptions for sports and large areas — from Christmas Eve. Meanwhile regionally, some governments are tightening restrictions even more.

Italy will close nightclubs and ban people from eating in public squares from December 30 to January 31. The outdoor mask mandate returned and the use of the Covid pass will be expanded from February 1.

Schools, bars, and clubs will all close in Portugal from December 26 until January 10. People have been told to work from home, and negative tests will be required for ceremonies such as weddings as well as all cultural and sporting events.



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