Covid: Which countries are in lockdown?

Some countries already easing restrictions ahead of Christmas, but others reinstating lockdowns after new variant of Covid-19 found

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 23 December 2020 00:27
Coronavirus in numbers

As Christmas is fast approaching, many countries are attempting to strike a balance between curbing the spread of Covid-19 while also allowing people to celebrate with family and friends.  

But a new variant of the novel coronavirus - found in the UK, South Africa, Denmark and the Netherlands - has thrown Christmas plans up in the air as proposals to relax social distancing measures over the festive period have now been cut back or axed altogether in some places.  

Some countries had already begun easing restrictions only to reinstate them or bring in stricter rules for the weeks ahead.  

Here are the various measures being adopted by countries around the world for the end of year festivities:  

United Kingdom:  

Prime minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to impose a third national lockdown in England amid the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.  

The government originally planned to allow up to three households to mix for five days between 23 and 28 December but this has been significantly scaled back.  

People living in tier 4 areas in England, mainly in London and the southeast, will no longer be allowed to mix with others over Christmas. Everyone else will be allowed to see family and friends for one day on 25 December.  

Scotland will be placed in its toughest level 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, 26 December, for three weeks. The government has also imposed a ban on travel to the rest of the country and the Christmas easing of measures will be limited to 25 December.  

In Wales, two households will be able to mix on Christmas Day.  


Ireland will return to the highest level of its Covid-19 response - Level 5 - from Christmas Eve with some adjustments, such as allowing shops to remain open.  

The measures will initially remain in place until 12 January.  

Restaurants and gastro pubs will have to close at 3pm on 24 December, while contact services such as hairdressers and beauty salons will also close from Christmas Eve. Inter-county travel will be banned after 26 December.  

From 1 January, no gatherings among households in private homes or gardens will be permitted.  

The current measures that allow visits from two other households to a private dwelling or garden will end on 27 December.  

One other household will be allowed to visit up to 31 December before the ban on visitors, apart for essential purposes, will come into effect. 

Customers queue in front of a reopened shop in Prague, Czech Republic


Italians will be placed under a nationwide lockdown for much of Christmas and New Year, with a strict curfew between 10pm and 5am.  

Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops will be shut between 24 and 27 December, 31 December and 3 January, and 5 and 6 January. On these days, people will be allowed to travel only for work, health or emergency reasons.  

The pope's Christmas Eve mass will start at 7.30pm, two hours earlier than usual, to allow the limited number of people who can attend to be home by 10pm.  


Germany went into a strict lockdown on 16 December, closing all non-essential shops and imposing curfews in some areas, with the measures expected to last until at least 10 January.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans to avoid unnecessary travel and to limit social contacts to an absolute minimum.  

Up to five people from two households are allowed to gather in a home. From 24 to 26 December, one household will be able to host a maximum of four close family members from other households, excluding children.  

Germany has also expanded its ban on passenger flights from the UK to forbid passenger transport by rail, bus and ship. A similar measure applies to South Africa, where a new variant of the coronavirus also has been detected. The measures apply until 6 January.  


Austria will go into its third nationwide lockdown after Christmas and lift it earlier for people who get tested. It comes just 11 days after a second lockdown ended.  

The new lockdown will start on 26 December. Shops, restaurants, theatres, museums and schools will reopen the week of 18 January.  

Austria will, however, let ski resorts open their lifts despite the lockdown, though Austria's provinces will also have their say. Face masks must be worn inside lifts.  

Austria is introducing a quarantine requirement over the holiday season for almost all of Europe that appears to at least partly aim at deterring visits by skiers from neighbouring countries.  

The army said it was deploying more soldiers to help police enforce controls at the borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy under the new lockdown regime.  


A second nationwide lockdown was imposed in November, which has been extended several times, and is currently in place until 6am on 7 January 2021.  

Citizens are required to send a text message to a government number requesting permission to leave their homes.  

There is also a ban on travelling between regions and an overnight curfew between 9pm and 5am with exceptions such as work, health and walking pets.  

The almost empty Gutenbergplatz is seen as the coronavirus outbreak continues in Mainz, Germany


New South Wales - Australia’s most populous state - has locked down the Northern Beaches, home to more than 250,000 people, for five days from Saturday, prompting other states to close their borders and throwing Christmas plans for thousands of families into chaos.  

The restrictions are set to be reviewed on Wednesday, and premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision of whether to remove curbs and allow families to gather for Christmas was still too close to call.  

All Australian states have now moved to close their borders to New South Wales, with hundreds of police and military personnel deployed to ensure compliance.  


The Dutch government early last week imposed a tough five-week lockdown, closing all schools and non-essential stores, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.  

Non-essential businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres have all shut.  

Bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-October but the partial lockdown has not slowed the spread of the virus enough.  

Prime minister Mark Rutte advised people to stay at home and to only have a maximum of two guests a day, except for 24 to 26 December when the limit will be raised to three, excluding children under 13.  

Czech Republic:  

The Czech Republic shut restaurants, hotels and indoor sports venues again on 18 December.  

Shops are still open and public gatherings are limited to six people both indoors and outdoors.  

A nationwide curfew from 11pm to 5am is also in force.  


Demark is imposing a hard lockdown over Christmas and the New Year, after going into a near-full shutdown on 17 December.  

Shopping centres, restaurants, cafes and bars are closed, with the exception of supermarkets and food shops. 


Poland will extend the closing of schools, restaurants and sports centres to hotels, ski slopes and shopping centres from 28 December to 17 January.  

There will be a curfew on New Year's Eve from 7pm to 6am the following day.  


Restaurants, sports and recreation centres will be closed for a month from 22 December, with shops to stay open with a further limited capacity.  


People in Croatia will not be able to leave the county of their residence between 23 December and 8 January. 

No more than 10 people from a maximum of two households will be allowed at private gatherings during the holiday season.  


Portugal will shorten its overnight curfew from 11pm to 2am on 24 December and 25 December, with no limit on how many people can gather per household for Christmas. 

The curfew will be kept at 11pm on New Year's Eve.  


In Spain, curfews will be loosened and up to 10 people per household will be allowed to gather for Christmas and New Year as a general rule.  

Movement between regions will be restricted to visits of family and close friends between 23 December and 6 January, unless the regions impose tougher rules.  


Bulgaria will keep secondary schools, shopping centres, gyms and restaurants closed and group tourist visits banned until 31 January.  

However, hotel restaurants will reopen on 22 December at 50 per cent of their capacity and only until 10pm. 


France will lift its nationwide stay-at-home order on 15 December – but it will be replaced with a nightly curfew which will only be waived for Christmas Eve.  

Additional reporting by agencies

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