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The Latest on Lockdowns Throughout Europe

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 10/30/2020 Julia Buckley, Megan Spurrell
a group of people sitting at a dock in front of a building © Getty

After a tough spring in Europe, which saw borders closed, cities in lockdown, and tens of thousands of deaths from COVID-19, early signs of normality were appearing at the start of summer. On June 15, some countries in the Schengen zone—which comprises the majority of European Union member states—started lifting their internal travel bans. On July 1, most E.U. countries also opened their borders to 14 “safe” countries with low infection rates as well. (That list did not include the U.S.).

But now, at the end of October, things are quickly regressing. Several countries are seeing case numbers eclipse records from earlier this year. In Belgium, for example, case counts are nearly 8 times peak numbers recorded in spring. Germany recorded more than 14,000 new cases on Friday (almost triple record numbers from April). Spain and France have both passed the one-million-case mark, and, as of this week, entered second lockdowns. 

As of October 12, the European Union has adopted joint travel restrictions to better regulate travel across member states. The U.S. remains on the list of nationalities not allowed to enter the bloc. Likewise, E.U. citizens, which have been banned from entering the U.S. since March 11, are prohibited entry.

As the situation quickly evolves, we're tracking what has reopened to locals and travelers—and what has closed for a second time—throughout all of Europe. 

This story was last published on July 15, 2020. It has been updated with new information.

The United Kingdom

The U.K. first officially came out of lockdown earlier this summer—shops were authorized to reopen on June 15 and domestic travel restarted on July 4, when hotels and Airbnbs reopened—though cases have been spiking over the past month, forcing some recently reopened spaces (including offices in London) to begin closing again. 

Despite the fact that Britain has the highest number of COVID-19 caused deaths on the continent, and a recent study shows cases in England are currently doubling every nine days, the government is resisting entering a nationwide lockdown, instead focusing on a more locally-led approach with just a handful of national measures. England is using a three-tier system for local lockdowns (you can find restrictions for any given area on the government's website), and national measures that began September 24 require pubs and bars to close at 10 p.m. Gatherings of more than six were prohibited starting September 13. Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that these rules would likely apply for six months or more. 

Though the first lockdown was fairly uniform across the U.K., efforts have since diverged. Currently, Scotland is developing its own local lockdown tiers, but both Wales and Northern Ireland have re-imposed shutdowns. In Wales, the two-week lockdown (which began October 23) requires locals to stay home and schools are closed. Northern Ireland's measures, introduced October 16, ban people from interacting with different households, and reduced pubs and restaurants to takeout only. 

Despite all of the above, there are no current restrictions on travel to the U.K.—which some blame for the severity of the country's outbreak—but travelers from the U.S. must quarantine for 14 days (isolation is not necessary for more than 50 countries ranked "safer" than the U.K.). 

France

President Emmanuel Macron opened borders to the rest of Europe’s Schengen area on June 15, and international borders for some non-E.U. countries (excluding the U.S.) on July 1. By late-September, the country began locking down again in bits and pieces, with two thirds of the country subject to a 9 p.m. curfew by mid-October. Yet cases continued to rise.

a group of people standing in front of Louvre: France has entered a second nationwide lockdown. © Getty France has entered a second nationwide lockdown.

On October 24 the country recorded more than 50,000 new infections, which was a new record for the fourth day in a row—and cause for a full shutdown, announced this Wednesday, to begin Friday. 

Non-essential businesses, restaurants, and bars will close, and movement outside the home will be strictly limited, with private and public gatherings banned throughout the country. Along with all other attractions, the reopened Disneyland Paris will close once again. 

President Macron says the lockdown will last until December 1 at the earliest. 

Germany

Germany was lauded for how it suppressed COVID outbreaks in the spring and summer, and the country reopened its borders to E.U. arrivals on June 15, adding eight non-E.U. countries on July 2. Come fall, cases have spiked, and are now well beyond those in the spring: Last Friday over 14,000 new cases were reported. In April, the peak daily case count was just over 6,000

In the past couple weeks, strict regional lockdowns in Bavarian districts were enacted—banning residents from leaving their homes—and chancellor Angela Merkel was reluctant to take similar measures on a national level. By Wednesday, though, it was clear the country could wait no longer: "We only need infection numbers to double another four times and the health system is finished," Merkel told reporters. (Currently, cases are doubling every seven days.)

A new lockdown will come into effect on Monday, to last through the end of November. Bars, cinemas, and clubs will be closed, with restaurants limited to delivery and takeout. Group gatherings with other households are capped at 10 people max. Schools and day cares, however, will remain open. Germans are being urged to stay home, including to “refrain from unnecessary travel and visits, even visiting relatives” the chancellor noted at the press conference. The goal is to re-open in time for the holidays, if cases are under control by then. 

Spain

On July 1, Spain went along with the E.U. advice to reopen its borders to the new "safe" list, and was eager to welcome tourists back after its three-month lockdown. This Saturday, a second round of restrictions were put in place—a major blow for the country after such a severe first lockdown. A new state of emergency has been imposed, along with a national nightly curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and gatherings of over six people are banned. Local authorities have been given free rein to restrict travel between regions. 

These restrictions will be in place for 15 days, though Spain's prime minister Pedro Sánchez says he would ask parliament to extend the rules for six months if needed, warning of “tough months” ahead. More than one million cases have been reported in Spain, with 34,752 reported deaths as of Monday. New cases have increased by more than 50 percent over the past two weeks, bypassing daily case counts from April, according to The New York Times. 

Italy

Italy reopened internally on June 3, one of the first countries in Europe to do so, though continued spikes have forced the country to largely close again. From this Monday through November 24, bars and restaurants will close by 6 p.m. Gyms, movie theaters, and public pools will close completely, and individuals will be encouraged to stay home. No mandatory nationwide curfew has been put in place, and schools and workplaces will also remain open. Museums, which reopened with reservations and mask requirements during the summer, will remain open to visitors. 

a narrow city street with old buildings in the background: As cases creep up in Italy, the government is encouraging locals to stay home. © Getty As cases creep up in Italy, the government is encouraging locals to stay home.

In addition to overall EU travel restrictions, a decree announced October 24 (in effect for one month) outlines various travel guidelines depending on travelers country of origin, destination, and reason for traveling. The U.S. as a country of origin falls under “Liste E,” which states that only Italian/EU/Schengen citizens, long-terms residents, and their family members will be allowed entry to Italy. Anyone in a “proven and stable relationship” with a resident or citizen will be allowed entry. 

Anyone meeting these qualifications must fill out a self-declaration upon entry, arrive in their final destination by private vehicle, and self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Greece

Thanks to an early first lockdown, Greece fared astonishingly well at the start of the pandemic, with just over 3,000 infections and 183 deaths counted this summer. The country was quick and eager to open up for tourism during peak season.

But cases are now soaring, reaching four digit case numbers in a single day (the latest 24-hour reporting period saw 1,211 new cases recorded, at the time of writing). Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced restrictions last Thursday, including a nighttime curfew from 12:30 to 5 a.m. in areas deemed high risk (which includes the wider Athens region, Thessaloniki, Larissa, and Rodopi). Face masks are now mandatory outdoors, and in public indoor areas. Unlike the first lockdown, however, shops and schools will remain open.

New travel restrictions were announced last month, which have been extended several times (currently, they are in place until November 8, though that is subject to change). Under these restrictions, flights have been suspended between Greece and neighboring destinations including Turkey and Catalonia, Spain. Travelers from other European countries, like Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, taken with 72 hours of landing. 

U.S. citizens are banned from entering until further notice.

Portugal

Portugal is faring better than surrounding Europeans countries, but cases are still spiking. 

Just over two weeks ago, the country recorded its highest daily number of new cases since the pandemic began, and re-imposed a “state of calamity.” Under this designation, gatherings are limited to five people, including in commercial spaces, restaurants, and cafes, and masks are now required in public spaces. Restaurants must close at 1 a.m., and bars and clubs will remain open under measures applied to cafes, with use of dancefloors prohibited.  

Residents in several municipalities (which include the city of Porto) must remain at home, except for essential errands that include work, exercise, and walking pets. 

The government has also announced a ban on movement between municipalities from midnight on October 30 to 6 a.m. on November 3. (There are a few exceptions, including those traveling for work, healthcare workers, and teachers.)

Individual violations for any of the above rules may result in fines between 100 and 500 euros.

Croatia

Croatia is not in the Schengen zone, and caused a stir by opening to U.S. residents on July 1 if traveling for “pressing” reasons—including tourism. It remains open, with some entry requirements: U.S. citizens must present negative COVID-19 test results from within the last 48 hours on arrival to enter. If you don’t have one, you will be ordered to self-quarantine for 7 days prior to taking a local PCR test, or self-quarantine for 14 days with no test. You must also have confirmation of paid-for accommodation where you will quarantine.

But despite the borders remaining open, the country is putting other restrictions in place (though the prime minister Andrej Plenković says a full lockdown will only be used as a last resort). Beginning October 27, social distance requirements are officially in place, masks are required, and all public events are limited to 50 people (and must end by 10 p.m., except for weddings which may go until midnight). Alcohol will not be sold from midnight to 6 a.m. These measures are expected to last two weeks, at which point the situation will be re-evaluated. 

Turkey

U.S. citizens can travel to Turkey, and there are no restrictions for visitors while traveling internally. All arrivals will be screened for COVID-19, and those displaying symptoms will be removed to a hospital. Masks are mandatory in most cities, including Istanbul, and the playing of live music at restaurants and cafes after midnight is forbidden. Beyond that, the country is operating as usual—if a bit quieter. 

Ireland

Like the U.K., Ireland never implemented travel restrictions, but the government continues to advise against all non-essential foreign travel. All visitors must fill in a passenger locator form, then quarantine for 14 days on arrival. There’s a $2,820 fine if you fail to comply.

Just because borders are open, though, doesn't mean the country is. On September 15, the government announced a new five-level plan for "Living with COVID-19” to be used over the next six months, which includes five different levels of restrictions that can be put in place on a county level as cases fluctuate. 

On October 21 the entire country was placed under Level 5, however, to be in effect through December 1. This designation restricts domestic travel to within 5 kilometers (just over 3 miles) of one's home, for essential work, doctor's appointments, and grocery runs only. Hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs can still operate, but may only provide services to guests, and gyms and pools must remain closed. Public transport is operating at 25 percent capacity, for essential workers only. 

Other countries

The Czech Republic, which currently has the highest infection rate in the region, has imposed a full lockdown and closed its borders to travelers. Belgium, which is also experiencing serious spikes and rising hospitalizations, has closed bars and restaurants, and implemented a curfew from 12 to 5 a.m. The country's borders are closed to all non-essential travel from non-EU or U.K. nationals (and their family members). Poland, which has seen case counts double in less than three weeks, has entered a nationwide lockdown as well, with borders closed to most foreigners with just a few exceptions (those from the E.U. and 12 additional countries will be allowed entry).

Switzerland reopened borders to E.U. arrivals on June 15, though U.S. travelers have not been allowed to visit since, and there's no sign of when that may change. U.S. citizens can enter under one exception, though, which is for the purpose of an important business meeting that cannot be postponed, and must be in-person (a special entry permit will be required).

The Netherlands is only allowing non-EU travelers to connect through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. A partial national lockdown was introduced in mid-October (which forced restaurants and bars to close) and health minister Hugo de Jonge said this week they will remain in place into December.

Austria has suspended the entry of third-country nationals, including U.S. citizens, with the exception of residents and those with Austrian family members, and officials said this week that the country is considering a second nationwide lockdown due to rising cases. 

Cyprus has advertised "quarantine hotels" where travelers who test positive, and their families, can quarantine in style, with room service available and nightly entertainment to be enjoyed from your balcony. U.S. citizens are allowed to enter only if they have not been in the U.S. within the past two weeks, nor any other country classified as a category A or B country. Travelers must arrive with a negative test taken within 72 hours of boarding, or they will be tested upon arrival for 85 euros (just under $100).

Iceland does not currently allow U.S. nationals—only residents from the E.U., U.K., and Canada can enter the country. 

Sweden’s lack of lockdown has caused anxiety among its European counterparts, but the country is playing it safe with travel. All non-essential travel is barred other than citizens of the E.U. through December 22.

Albania is open to U.S. citizens, and bars, restaurants, and beaches have reopened. U.S. citizens can also visit Serbia and Kosovo. But remember, the U.S. government still advises against all international travel, and flying to a European country that will let you in does not mean you can then move freely around within Europe.

We're reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.

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