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COVID-19

In Depth: How Europe is ramping up new lockdown measures to fight coronavirus pandemic

The European Union agreed to close its external borders as countries ramped up their lockdown measures in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Here's a look at how countries are tackling the crisis.

In Depth: How Europe is ramping up new lockdown measures to fight coronavirus pandemic
AFP

The European Union has agreed to close its external borders for 30 days.

The entry of non-EU nationals will be restricted unless they have visas. EU nationals and Britons will be allowed to enter the EU though.

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

Confinement

Italy and Spain, Austria and the Czech Republic, have taken strict confinement measures. Their citizens can go out only to work, for health reasons or to buy food.

France's President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation on Monday evening to announce that the government was ordering people to stay home for 15 days unless for essential reasons.

Those reasons included grocery shopping, exercise, medical appointments and walking the dog. But it was now forbidden to friends or families outside. Anyone caught disobeying the rule would be subject to a 38 euro fine that could rise to €135.

The British government has asked people displaying symptoms to remain at home for a week.

Greece has imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.

People returning from the main coronavirus hotspots must stay at home for two weeks in Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Russia and Slovakia. Germany has recommended the same.

 Borders controlled or closed

Spain announced Monday it would close its land borders at midnight.

Germany has stepped up border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, only allowing through goods transit and border workers.

France is to bolster checks with Germany, while not closing its border completely.

Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania and Slovakia have announced the closure of their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles.

Russia has closed its land borders with Norway and Poland.

Austria has almost entirely closed its border with Italy.

Schools closed 

Schools, universities and creches are closed in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal,  Romania, Russia, Slovakia,  Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

Gatherings banned

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

Gathering of more than five people are banned in Austria and the Swiss canton of Geneva, while the Czech Republic has prohibited meetings with more than 30.

Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands and Switzerland have set the threshold at 100 people, as have Hungary and Romania for closed meetings.

Finland and Sweden have set the bar at 500 people.

Germany has cancelled  non-essential events gathering less than 1,000 people, a threshold also in force in Poland, Portugal and Romania.

Moscow has banned meetings of more than 50 indoors and set limits on outdoor events.

Restaurants and shops closed

Non-essential businesses have been closed in Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain.

In Belgium, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants are closed, as are pubs in Ireland.

Luxembourg and the Netherlands have ordered the closure of all places and businesses open to the public.

Greece has closed its museums and archaeological sites.

Transport disrupted

France has announced a gradual reduction of long-distance transport, including buses, planes and trains.

In Germany regional rail transport will also be heavily reduced.

Rome's second airport, Ciampino, is closed, while Fiumicino is to close one of its three terminals from Tuesday.

Poland has cancelled all domestic flights.

Ukraine has suspended air links and Russia has reduced them with the European Union.

Austria has suspended rail links with Italy and air links with France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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