Europe’s second COVID Christmas with lockdowns, cancellations and rising cases

Published on : Friday, December 24, 2021

The mood in much of Europe reflects hopes briefly glimpsed and then dashed. As in the United States, new cases of the omicron variant are quickly overtaking previously dominant delta variant. But many European governments have gone further than the United States in reimposing curfews, closures and travel restrictions.

Ireland is shutting pubs at 8 p.m. Greece, Italy and Spain have reintroduced outdoor mask mandates. In Austria, people without proof of vaccination or COVID-19 recovery can leave home only for essential reasons.

Europeans are being urged in some places required to keep holiday gatherings small. Britain’s National Health Service reported Thursday that staff absences due to COVID were up 50 percent from the previous week.

Transport for London announced it was closing a Tube line until the end of the year over a lack of drivers. And the education secretary is calling for former teachers to return to classrooms, in anticipation of omicron-related staff shortages in January.

Covid health passes documenting vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test have become routine in much of Europe and helped boost vaccination rates. Some countries are now tightening the rules: adding a booster requirement, dropping testing as an alternative.

Italy on Thursday said unvaccinated people would no longer be able to partake in the ritual of having an espresso at a cafe counter.

The restrictions across Europe have ruined yet another much-needed tourism season, said French travel agency operator Marie Vendroux-Deppe, who works with U.S. travellers. Most of her clients canceled their trips in the past few days, and now she doesn’t expect a return to normal until 2023.

There will be no midnight masses in the Netherlands. Dutch bishops said they worried about crowds and ventilation and the impact of having “multiple celebrations in one evening.”

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