Christmas in Coronatijd: how do other European countries do this?

Four more weeks and then it‘s Christmas, but the holidays in this corona year look different than usual. Prime Minister Rutte does not currently think that the corona measures can be relaxed by Christmas. How is that going in other European countries? A round of our correspondents.

United Kingdom – ‘The virus doesn‘t know it’s Christmas

The British may form a โ€œChristmas bubbleโ€ of up to three households between 23 and 27 December, Prime Minister Johnson announced this week. But โ€œwe can not afford recklessness,โ€ he stressed in a video message. โ€œThe virus doesn’t know it‘s Christmas, we all have to be careful.โ€

Johnson was under tremendous pressure from his own party to ease the rules, says correspondent Tim de Wit. โ€œHe felt compelled to offer the British some sort of normal Christmas.โ€ That is what the Prime Minister is also being criticised. โ€œSeveral medical scientists consider it unwise for families to be allowed to sit together at the table again. And they fear that the British will have to pay the bill again in January.โ€

England is in lockdown until early December. Subsequently, regional measures will follow, depending on the number of infections. โ€œMany major cities like Birmingham and Manchester are at the highest level of threat. There a lot of catering industry remains closed and public life will still have many limitations. Some call it a ‘lockdown in all but name‘.โ€

France – ‘Don‘t make it too big a feast of it’

From this weekend onwards, the corona measures in France, which is still in lockdown, will be gradually eased. Today, the shops open again and French people get a little more space to go outside. On December 15th, the national lockdown will be replaced by a curfew.

The gradual easing should make Christmas with the family possible, said President Macron this week. Therefore, on 24 December and 31 December, the curfew does not apply. But, warned the president: do not sit at the table with too many people over the holidays.

โ€œ Remarkably, he did not mention a maximum number,โ€ says correspondent Frank Renout. โ€œNow you can receive up to six people at home. The message for Christmas is: don‘t make it too big a party.โ€ The catering industry in France remains closed until 20 January.

Germany – No โ€œChristmas of lonelinessโ€

In our eastern neighbours, the corona measures will initially become a lot stricter in the coming weeks. For example, Germans should wear a mouthcap in crowded places, even outside on the street. And they are allowed to meet up with up to five people from two households.

Between 20 December and 1 January, the rules will become slightly more flexible. At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Germans can gather in groups of up to ten close relatives and friends. Children under 14 years of age do not count.

โ€œ It is a laborious compromise negotiated between the government and the Lรคnder,โ€ says correspondent Judith van de Hulsbeek about the relaxation. โ€œMerkel would have preferred to see the measures even sharper, because the figures are far from being the way it wants them.โ€

But it should not be a โ€œChristmas of lonelinessโ€, said the Chancellor this week. Van de Hulsbeek: โ€œSo visiting grandfather and grandma, family and friends: that will soon be allowed and even encouraged. But they‘re holding their hearts here. The fear is that during the holidays many people get infected, so the lockdown will eventually have to last longer.โ€

Italy – No skiing holiday

โ€œ In Catholic Italy, of course, Christmas is also being thought about,โ€ says correspondent Mustafa Marghadi. How they look exactly is still unclear. โ€œOn 3 December, the Italian Government will come up with more information.โ€

Normally, many Italians go skiing around Christmas, but the government doesn’t want to do that this year. Therefore, almost certainly the ski resorts close. In order to prevent Italians from going abroad, the country, together with Germany and France, pleads for a joint ski ban.

So far, the general message is: celebrate Christmas as much as possible with the family. Italy is currently divided into three categories depending on the number of coronavirus infections: red, orange and yellow. In the red regions there is a partial lockdown. Among other things, the Minister of Health advocates a further tightening of the rules on travel between regions during the holidays.

In Italy there is currently a curfew from 22:00 in the evening until 05:00 in the morning. People are allowed to go outside at night only for a valid reason. According to Italian media, the government is thinking about a later start of curfew on Christmas Eve so that people can go to night mass.

Spain – With six or ten people at dinner?

Also, the Spaniards must accept thatChristmas looks different than usual. โ€œThere will almost certainly be rules for the maximum number of people who are allowed to meet,โ€ says correspondent Rop Zoutberg.

The Spanish Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, said this week that he is considering a maximum of six people. But that figure is still being negotiated with the regional authorities. Some regions, including Madrid and Catalonia, advocate less stringent rules: up to 10 people per Christmas celebration.

โ€œ The authorities are also thinking about whether, for example, you can bring relatives from a nursing home to spend Christmas with them,โ€ says Zoutberg. โ€œAnd the domestic movements are also a tricky point. Now many states are locked down: you can‘t get in or out. The question is whether this will be relaxed later, so that you can also celebrate Christmas with family in another region.โ€

Belgium – ‘Intimate Christmas this year

โ€œ Christmas will be more intimate this year,โ€ announced the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo last night. Belgians will be allowed to invite up to a guest from outside their household. Only for single residents an exception is made: they are allowed to let two people in.

Coronac figures in Belgium have been decreasing harder for weeks than anywhere else in Europe. At the end of October, Belgium had even more infestations 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 that, according to correspondent Thomas Spekschoor. The school holiday was extended by a week, a curfew applies throughout the country and all non-essential shops were closed. Also, Belgians are only allowed to have one โ€œcuddly contactโ€.

Those stores will open again next week, but there will be no other easing for the time being. According to De Croo, we conclude a disastrous year at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. โ€œLet us make sure that Christmas is not the beginning of a new disastrous year.โ€