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Curfews and quarantines: Europe faces another Easter of Covid restrictions

Europe may not be subject to the drastic lockdown measures introduced to combat the first wave of coronavirus a year ago, but many countries still face another Easter of greatly reduced meeting and movement.

In France, new restrictions come into effect across the country from 7pm on Saturday that limit travel to within 10km (six miles) of home, absent one of the allowed “imperative” reasons. Sworn declarations known as “attestations” will be necessary for anyone travelling outside these rules.

These restrictions are already in effect in Paris and some other departments and were extended in an announcement by Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening. A 7pm to 6am curfew has been extended to the whole country. However, in a surprising move, Macron said there would be a “tolerance” for people wishing to go somewhere beyond the 10km limit this Easter weekend, until 7pm on Monday, which is a bank holiday – .

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said that after 7pm on Monday, when the tolerance ends, police and gendarmeswould be dispatched to ensure the rules were enforced. From that point on, interregional travel will be banned.

The French are being encouraged not to meet for family Easter gatherings because of the increased risk of coronavirus contamination and spread.

Travel in and out of the country is not encouraged and is subject to rules and Covid-19 tests. It is easier to enter France from another EU nation, but travellers must still show a negative PCR Covid test. From the UK you can only enter France under certain stricter conditions, which also apply to arrivals from other countries. The rules do not apply to the thousands of cross-border workers.

In Belgium, the Easter holidays officially take place from Saturday to 18 April but started a week earlier for pupils and parents. The government closed schools from 26 March as part of a tightening of its long-running lockdown.

As part of its response to a rise in cases, the government also maintained a ban on non-essential travel in and out of the country, a move criticised by the European commission. The tourism ban will be in place until the end of the holiday period. So-called “nonessential” journeys are still allowed within the country, which means day trips or a few days away from home are possible. Holiday parks, hotels and campsites are open, but restaurants and bars remain closed.

After recent chaotic scenes at Brussels-Midi train station, where huge crowds of people were left waiting for trains to the coast, people are being advised to avoid visiting resorts such as Ostend and Knokke. The Belgian rail company SNCB said that for Easter it was reducing capacity on trains to the coast to 50%, with only window seats used on services.

Spain remains under a state of emergency and subject to an overnight curfew that varies from region to region as a fourth wave of the virus begins to take its toll.

Travel between different regions is not allowed except for emergency reasons, denying many Spaniards their Easter jaunts or visits to celebrate with their extended relatives. The restrictions have annoyed some people, especially as visitors from other European countries are allowed to travel to Spain by air or sea as long as they show a negative result for a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.

Travel between the Balearic islands is allowed, but bars and restaurants must close at 5pm and the night-time curfew applies from 10pm. Groups at bars and restaurants are limited to four people.

A recent influx of French tourists who had travelled to Madrid to escape lockdown restrictions at home has raised eyebrows in Spain, but their presence has been welcomed by the hospitality industry. Spaniards are also allowed to travel abroad, subject to the rules governing visits to other countries.

This week Portugal’s interior ministry announced that people arriving from countries with an incidence rate of more than 500 cases per 100,000 population over the previous 14 days would have to quarantine for two weeks and could come on essential business only. The quarantine period also applies to people whose journey originated in the UK, Brazil or South Africa.

All arriving passengers must show a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours. Flights to and from the UK and Brazil remain prohibited except for repatriation flights.

Portugal was put under a second lockdown in mid-January, and on 28 January it registered a record one-day tally of 16,500 new infections. There has since been a drop in cases, allowing the government to ease restrictions gradually.

In Greece, small retail shops will reopen for business from Monday under so-called click-away and click-in-shop modes, meaning consumers will need to make appointments and comply with a three-hour limit for shopping.

Bars and restaurants remain closed with the centre-right government threatening to step up penalties for owners who allow customers to gather with drinks outside premises. But bans on movement have been eased in what has been described by officials as “decompression valves” aimed at managing mounting fatigue with restrictions. From Saturday people will be able to drive beyond the limits of their municipality to exercise or get fresh air.

The first trickle of tourists has begun flying into the country, with Germans who could prove they had been vaccinated or had negative PCR tests arriving in Crete last weekend. With hotels closed, most are staying in pensions and rented accommodation. Britons with second homes in Greece have also arrived ahead of Easter. New arrivals are required to self-isolate for a week and will have to adhere to strict lockdown measures, including notifying authorities by text message of their movements once quarantine periods end.

Travel in and out of Germany is permitted, but travellers have to provide a negative Covid test before boarding an inbound flight, whether or not the area they are travelling from is classified as a “risk area”.

Holiday trips within Germany are discouraged, with hotels across the country only allowed to accommodate travellers for “necessary and expressly non-touristic” purposes, such as people on business trips. The same rule applies to campsites.

Outdoor Easter egg hunts with grandparents are allowed, though staying with them for the weekend is only permitted for small groups. No more than five people over the age of 14 and from two separate households are allowed to meet indoors.

The whole of Italy will be in a “red zone” lockdown over the Easter weekend, with bans on travelling beyond home towns or regions. However, people can still travel abroad – a measure that provoked much ire among Italians amid airport scenes of their fellow citizens preparing to flee to places such as the Canary Islands for the Easter break. Last week the government made it mandatory for anyone arriving from an EU country before 6 April to quarantine for five days and take a Covid-19 test at the end of the quarantine. Similar measures were already in place for non-EU countries.

The red zone measures are not as tough as those in place last spring, as people are not forced to stay at home. They can walk or exercise close to home, and a maximum of two people (not counting children under 14) are permitted to visit another household within their town no more than once a day. Families can also travel to second homes, apart from in regions where there is a ban, such as Sardinia and the Aosta Valley.

Ireland remains under maximum-level pandemic restrictions, with a 5km travel limit and a mandatory 12-day hotel quarantine for travellers from 32 countries deemed high risk. From 6 April another 26 countries – none from the EU – will be added to the quarantine list.

Health officials wanted to add even more countries, including France, Germany, Italy and the US, but faced resistance from the attorney general and foreign ministry.

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