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How are countries around the world navigating COVID restrictions at Christmas?

Last Updated Dec 16, 2020 at 3:51 pm MDT

A shopper walks past a Christmas display on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson


Authorities are cautioning Canadians against getting swept up in the excitement of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Federal forecasts predict the outbreak’s death toll could hit nearly 15,000 come Christmas Day.

Provincial public-health officials are strongly discouraging people from gathering with anyone outside their household during the holidays. In most provinces, gatherings are being limited to members of a same household. In some cases, a cross-household gathering is permitted exclusively for people who live by themselves.

A new poll suggests a majority of Canadians support the idea of a lockdown on non-essential businesses and services during the holidays to fight a surge in new COVID-19 cases across the country.



The Czech Republic has been facing a rise in coronavirus infections in December. The government has decided to toughen restrictive measures that include the closure of bars, restaurants and hotels and the re-imposition of overnight curfew.

The country is launching a program of nationwide testing for the coronavirus that will continue until Jan. 15. The results of the rapid antigen tests will be known in up to 20 minutes. Those who test positive will be retested with the more precise PCR tests.



There are nationwide restrictions with restaurants, theatres, museums, cinemas and various other venues closing.

Shops will remain open, but people are urged to work from home, and children from 5th grade upward will be sent home from school to remote learning. The nationwide restrictions will run until Jan. 3.



As the holiday season approaches, French Prime Minister Jean Castex is encouraging the French to self-confine for 8 days before Christmas, rather than taking an automated coronavirus test.

France this week lifted a lockdown imposed on Oct. 28, but strict measures are still in place as infections are still high. There will be a nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., which will be lifted on Christmas Eve but not on New Year’s Eve. Theaters and cinemas will remain shut as will bars and restaurants.



Faced with exponentially increasing cases in October, Germany implemented a “lockdown light” at the start of November, which closed bars and restaurants but left shops open. The measures slowed the weekly increase in new infections but didn’t bring them down, prompting officials to take more drastic measures.

In addition to closing shops and moving children to remote learning for the few days before the Christmas holidays, private gatherings are being limited to two households with a maximum of five people, among other things.

READ MORE: Germany tightens virus lockdown rules over Christmas period



Retail stores, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars and cafes will remain shut throughout the Christmas period as part of the country’s second lockdown.

A mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving in Greece will be cut on Dec. 18 to three days from the previously announced 10 but a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew will be in place throughout the holiday season.

Churches will be allowed to open to the faithful only on Christmas Day and Epiphany on Jan. 6, with limits on the number allowed inside according to church size.



Largely heeding the advice of medical experts, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has tightened travel rules for the period straddling Christmas, New Year’s and Epiphany Day holidays. Starting on Dec. 21 and running through Jan. 6, people in Italy won’t be able to travel between regions except for work or urgent reasons such as health problems.

On the holidays themselves, under the nationwide restrictions, Italians can’t leave their towns, as the government seeks to discourage families and friends from gathering in large numbers indoors.

Italy’s case total is nearing 1.9 million, while the known death toll rose by 680 to 66,537 confirmed deaths. That’s the highest in Europe.



Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg says it’s “not unlikely” the first coronavirus vaccines in Norway will take place in the week between Christmas and New Year. Those getting the vaccine first include the elderly, people in the risk groups and health staff. 

The remainder of Norway’s population of 5.4 million will get the vaccine during the spring.

“I still think there will be a lot of infection control measures until Easter. How the time goes after will be about our access to the vaccine,” Solberg said. “If we manage not to make Christmas a new wave of infection, which we fear, we may be able to ease some measures in January and beyond.”



Slovakia is tightening restrictive measures to contain a record surge of coronavirus infections. Health Minister Marek Krajci says the government is imposing a round-the-clock curfew that becomes effective on Saturday at 5 a.m.

The aim is to limit people’s contacts before and during Christmas holidays. Krajci says during the curfew only people from two households can meet.

The exceptions include necessary trips to work, to do business or see doctors. People can do necessary food and medicine shopping in the stores closest to their homes. All other than nonessential stores will be closed.



South Korean health officials are discussing whether to elevate social distancing restrictions to the highest “Tier 3,” which could possibly including banning gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting non-essential businesses, and requiring companies to have more employees work from home.



Turkey has become one of the worst-hit countries in the world, with the number of confirmed cases hovering around 30,000 per day.

The country has imposed evening curfews and lockdowns at weekends to combat the surge without impacting the economy.



No need to take it to the max. That’s the new Christmas message that leaders of the U.K.’s four nations were spreading Wednesday, after toughening up their advice over what people should do during the holiday period.

Last month, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed to permit a maximum of three households to mix between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, regardless of what local restrictions are in place.

But following a sharp spike in new infections – another 25,161 were recorded Wednesday, the highest since Nov. 14 – families are being urged to consider the rules as the outer limits of what they can do.



The number of dead in the U.S. passed a staggering 300,000 this week, according to Johns Hopkins University, with about 2,400 people now dying per day on average.

The devastating toll is only expected to grow in the coming weeks, fueled by travel over Christmas and New Year’s, family gatherings and lax adherence to mask-wearing and other precautions.