A new ‘hard’ lockdown coming into force in Germany from today (December 16) will put a dampener on Christmas celebrations and travel plans, with restrictions only being slightly eased for the holiday.
The German federal government announced the new lockdown amid a continued surge in infections which a ‘soft’ lockdown in place since the start of November has failed to contain. The new measures will be in place across the Christmas period, preventing large gatherings of family and friends, in moves that are being echoed across Europe as the continent continues to suffer from a second wave of COVID-19.
Christmas Celebrations On Hold As Pandemic Continues
Germany’s new national lockdown comes into force on December 16, lasting until at least January 10 and consequently covering the entire Christmas period, disrupting plans to travel and spend time with friends and family over the holiday. The German government has decided to extend the limited lockdown measures in place since the start of November as COVID-19 cases in the country have continued to rise.
The government initially announced an extension of the ‘lockdown light’ measures at the beginning of December, with restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities remaining closed. The authorities had already joined France and Italy in closing ski resorts over the holiday, ending hopes of family skiing trips this Christmas.
However, new measures have since been added including the closure of non-essential shops, personal services such as hairdressers, and schools. Places of worship will remain open but prior registration is required for attendance and no singing is allowed, while the consumption of alcohol in public spaces is prohibited.
Individual state governments have also introduced their own rules on top of the federal government’s, adding to restrictions facing Germans over Christmas. In Bavaria, a nightly curfew will be in place from 9pm, while Baden-Württemberg will also be implementing a curfew over the lockdown period. Thuringia announced the closing of retail stores, while Schleswig-Holstein has reduced the number of adults permitted to meet in public and private places from 10 to 5.
Although the federal government initially agreed a partial lifting of the lockdown rules over the Christmas period, allowing members of one household will be allowed to meet with up to 10 people from other households to celebrate the holiday from December 23 to January 1, the rules have now been tightened.
The new regulations will allow an easing of restrictions from December 24-26, allowing one household to be visited by four family members over the age of 14. Even with these tighter restrictions, people are encouraged to limit their interactions with other family members outside their household and to self-isolate both before and after attending holiday gatherings.
Travel around Germany and between states during the lockdown is permitted but strongly discouraged. The government also continues to strongly advise against international travel, but travelers from most European countries are allowed to enter Germany, with new arrivals required to self-isolate for 10 days, reduced to 5 days if they receive a negative COVID-19 test taken on the fifth day or later after arrival in Germany.
Low-Key Christmas Likely Across Europe
Germany is not alone in tightening lockdowns and travel restrictions over the Christmas period, with countries across Europe enacting similar measures in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic are both implementing strict lockdowns this week which will not be eased significantly to allow for Christmas celebrations.
Italy is also considering a sweeping countrywide lockdown from December 24 in order to prevent social gatherings over the holiday from further fueling the spread of the virus, amid another surge in cases. In France, while the strictest lockdown measures have been lifted, Christmas celebrations are likely to be a low-key affair with the various restrictions on activities and gatherings that are still in place.
Meanwhile the UK still plans to allow for a relaxing of its COVID-19 tier system for 5 days over Christmas, allowing three household bubbles to meet for the holiday, although this decision has been questioned given surging case numbers in parts of the country, including London. While the rules remain unchanged for now, the government advises strongly against mixing with other households and traveling to celebrate with others over the holiday.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories