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COVID-19: As fears of a third wave mount, what’s going on in Europe?

Written by on 22 March 2021

As fears of a third COVID-19 wave mount and British holidaymakers brace themselves for a second year without a break abroad, all eyes are on Europe.

Despite the success of the UK’s vaccine roll-out programme – with half of all adults having received a jab – there are fears that travelling abroad may bring people into contact with other variants of the virus, sabotaging gains made so far.

And in a continuing war of words, the EU has threatened to block exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to countries outside the EU – including the UK – in a bid to make sure there are enough left for its citizens.

Here’s the current situation across Europe:


Saxony-Anhalt, Halberstadt: 'bel from Halberstadt stands in front of the test centre at the Anne-Frank primary school in Halberstadt and takes an anterior nasal swab. Pic: AP Image: A child takes a nasal swab at the Anne-Frank primary school in Halberstadt. Pic: AP

A rise in infections in Germany has led Chancellor Angela Merkel to warn that she may need to apply an “emergency brake” on relaxing restrictions.

Lockdown measures will be re-imposed in regions where the number of weekly cases is above 100 per 100,000 residents.

Hamburg has returned to a full lockdown, after a spike in cases.

Home-made masks are also now no longer considered adequate protection in shops and on public transport, and clinical masks must be worn.

Germany has so far seen nearly 2,700,000 cases of COVID-19, and 74,700 deaths.

The country has restarted its vaccine programmes with the AstraZeneca jab – reversing earlier decisions to suspend it over blood clot concerns.


Paris will go into lockdown from midnight on Friday Image: Paris – the city of light – is looking a little grey now it’s back in lockdown

Skyrocketing COVID case numbers and a slow vaccine rollout have forced French authorities to re-impose lockdown measures in 16 areas, including the capital Paris, affecting about 21 million people.

Non-essential shops are required to close, inter-regional travel is prohibited, and the nationwide nightly curfew is being moved back an hour to 7pm local time (6pm GMT).

However, schools, hairdressers and bookshops will be able to remain open and people will be able to exercise outdoors within 10km (6 miles) of their home.

The measures will be in place for at least four weeks.

This week France reported the highest number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care this year.

It has so far had about 4,200,000 coronavirus cases, and 92,100 deaths.

The country has restarted its vaccine programmes with the AstraZeneca jab.


Many areas of Italy have now gone back into the strictest lockdown. Pic: AP Image: Many areas of Italy are back in lockdown too. Pic: AP

It will be a muted Easter for Italy, with a total shutdown across the country from 3 to 5 April. People will have to stay at home except for work, health or other essential reasons.

More than half the country – including Rome and Milan – is already under restrictions imposed on 15 March, which saw restaurants and schools once again closed.

Promises to vaccinate all Italians over 80 by the end of March have fallen woefully short, amid well-documented interruptions of vaccine supplies and organisational shortfalls.

So far, Italy has seen more than 3,300,000 cases of COVID-19, and over104,600 deaths – the sixth-highest tally in the world.

Like Germany and France, Italy has also made the decision to restart its vaccine programmes with the AstraZeneca jab.


Beach in Greece. Pic: Associated Press Image: A Greek holiday could now be off the cards. Pic: AP

Schools in Greece will remain closed until the end of the month, and non-essential shops in areas with high infection rates are also closed.

People cannot travel outside their area of residence, and there is a curfew in place from 9pm local time (7pm GMT) during the week and from 7pm local time at weekends (5pm GMT).

Greece will start distributing free do-it-yourself COVID-19 tests next month, due to stubbornly high levels of new infections, the Greek authorities say.

Everyone with a social security number will be entitled to four test kits per month, and they will be distributed at pharmacies.

Greece has so far had more than 235,600 cases of COVID-19 and over 7,400 people have died.

An open travel corridor between Greece and the UK last year – with no requirement to quarantine on return – has been blamed for significantly spreading the virus in a Public Health England study published this week.


The city of Warsaw could see restrictions added by Grant Shapps Image: Poland’s capital city Warsaw, like the rest of the country, is under lockdown

In Poland, a three-week lockdown is under way with non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities closed.

A jump in infection rates has led authorities to urge Poles to observe the new restrictions and get the vaccination as soon as it is offered.

While Poland didn’t discontinue using the AstraZeneca vaccine, many Poles were not turning up for their inoculation, with authorities blaming that on “panic” in other countries.

It has so far experienced more than 2,000,000 cases of COVID-19 and 49,100 deaths.


Will Britons be able to return to the beaches of Europe this summer? Image: Spain’s restrictions vary in each of its 17 regions

Spain is under an overnight nationwide curfew until May, although precise restrictions vary in each of the country’s 17 regions.

After weeks of falling contagion rates, the country’s coronavirus incidence is on the rise again, prompting fears it could soon join the uptick that the rest of Europe is experiencing.

Spain has so far had more than 3,200,000 COVID-19 infections and 72,900 people have died.

It will resume vaccinating with AstraZeneca doses next week.


The Algarve in Portugal is a popular getaway destination for Britons Image: The Algarve in Portugal is a popular tourist destination

Mainland Portugal is under a state of emergency until 31 March.

All non-essential services and schools are shut, and people are being urged to stay home.

The country is looking ahead to relaxing lockdown measures, but has kept travel restrictions, including controls on its border with Spain, in place.

It has so far seen about 817,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 16,700 deaths.

The country will also be restarting its vaccine programmes with the AstraZeneca jab.