Another four weeks and then it will be Christmas, but the holidays look different than usual in this corona year. Prime Minister Rutte does not currently think that the corona measures can be relaxed with Christmas. How is that going in other European countries? A tour of our correspondents.
United Kingdom – ‘The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas’
The British may form a “Christmas bubble” of up to three households between 23 and 27 December, Prime Minister Johnson announced this week. But “we can’t afford recklessness,” he stressed in one video message. “The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas, we all have to be careful.”
Johnson was under enormous pressure from his own party to relax the rules, says correspondent Tim de Wit. “He felt compelled to promise the British some sort of normal Christmas.” The prime minister is also criticized for this. “Several medical scientists think it is unwise that families should be allowed to sit together again. And they fear that the British will have to pay the bill for this again in January.”
Great Britain is in lockdown until the beginning of December. Regional measures will then follow, depending on the number of infections. “Many large cities such as Birmingham and Manchester are at the highest threat level. Many catering establishments will remain closed there and public life will still have many restrictions.”lockdown in all but name“Some people call it that.”
France – ‘Don’t make it too big a party’
As of this weekend, the corona measures in France, which is currently still in lockdown, will be relaxed gradually. For example, the shops are reopening today and the French have a little more space to go outside. On December 15, the national lockdown will be replaced by a curfew.
The gradual relaxation should allow for Christmas with the family, President Macron said this week. Therefore, the curfew does not apply from 24 December to 31 December. However, the president warned, don’t sit at the table with too many people during the holidays.
“Remarkably, he has not specified a maximum number,” said correspondent Frank Renout. “Nowadays you can receive a maximum of six people at home. The message for Christmas is: don’t make it too big a party.” The catering industry in France will remain closed until 20 January.
Germany – No ‘Christmas of Solitude’
At our eastern neighbors, the corona measures will initially become a lot stricter in the coming weeks. For example, Germans have to wear a mouth mask in busy places, including outside on the street. And they can come together with a maximum of five people from two households.
Between December 20 and January 1, the rules will become somewhat more flexible. At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Germans are allowed to meet in groups of up to ten close relatives and friends. Children under the age of 14 are not included.
“It is a laboriously negotiated compromise between the government and the federal states,” says correspondent Judith van de Hulsbeek about the relaxation. “Merkel would have preferred to see the measures even sharper, because the figures are still far from what she wants them to be.”
But it should not be a “Christmas of solitude,” said the Chancellor this week. Van de Hulsbeek: “So visiting grandfather and grandmother, family and friends: that will soon be allowed and will even be encouraged. But they do hold their heart here. The fear is that many people will be infected during the holidays, causing the lockdown. will eventually have to take longer. “
Italy – No skiing holiday
“Naturally, Christmas is also being considered in Catholic Italy,” says correspondent Mustafa Marghadi. It is still unclear exactly what these will look like. “On December 3, the Italian government will provide more information.”
Normally many Italians go skiing around Christmas, but the government does not want that this year. That is why the ski areas will almost certainly close. To prevent Italians from going abroad, the country, together with Germany and France, is calling for a joint ski ban.
So far the general message has been: celebrate Christmas with the family as much as possible. Italy is currently divided into three categories, depending on the number of corona infections: red, orange and yellow. A partial lockdown applies in the red regions. The Minister of Health, among others, is calling for a further tightening of the rules for travel between regions during the holidays.
In Italy there is currently a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. People are only allowed outside at night for a valid reason. According to Italian media, the government is considering a later start of the curfew on Christmas Eve, so that people can go to midnight mass.
Spain – Having dinner with six or ten people?
The Spaniards also have to accept that Christmas looks different from normal. “There will almost certainly be rules for the maximum number of people allowed to meet,” said correspondent Rop Zoutberg.
Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, said this week that he is considering a maximum of six people. But that number is still under negotiation with the regional authorities. Some regions, including Madrid and Catalonia, are calling for less strict rules: a maximum of ten people per Christmas celebration.
“The authorities are also considering whether, for example, you can take family members out of a nursing home to spend the Christmas with them,” says Zoutberg. “And domestic movements are also a tricky issue. Now many federal states are sealed off: you cannot get in or out. The question is whether that will soon be relaxed so that you can celebrate Christmas with family in another region.”
Belgium – ‘Intimate Christmas this year’
“Christmas will be more intimate this year”, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced yesterday evening. Belgians will be allowed to invite a maximum of one guest from outside their household. An exception is made for single people only: they may let two people in.
The corona figures in Belgium have been falling faster for weeks now than anywhere else in Europe. At the end of October, Belgium had even more infections per 100,000 inhabitants than any other European country. Four weeks later, the country has fallen below the Dutch level and even below the level of Germany.
The Belgians had to sacrifice a lot for this, according to correspondent Thomas Spekschoor. School holidays were extended by a week, curfews across the country and all non-essential stores were closed. Belgians are also only allowed to have one “hug contact”.
Those stores will open again next week, but there will be no other relaxation for the time being. According to De Croo, we will end a disastrous year at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “Let us make sure that Christmas does not become the start of another disastrous year.”