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COVID-19

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

Quarantine, schools, shops and borders closed, gatherings banned, here are the main measures that have been taken so far in Europe to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

The World Health Organization warned Friday that Europe was now the “epicentre” for the global coronavirus pandemic and reporting more daily cases than China did at the height of its outbreak. 

“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a virtual press conference, describing the more than 5,000 deaths worldwide as “a tragic milestone”.

Confinement

Italy's population of 60 million has to stay at home until April 3, but can go out to work, for health reasons or to buy food.

In Spain, four parts of the northeastern region of Catalonia have been quarantined, as have two communes in the Austrian region of Tyrol.

Austrians returning from Italy will be confined.

People returning from the main coronavirus hotspots must stay at home for two weeks in Croatia, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia.

In Norway, all people returning from abroad will be quarantined and some cities have banned people from disembarking from cruise ships, a measure also taken by Portugal and Spain.

In Luxembourg and Portugal visits to retirement homes are banned, while in Belgium they are either prohibited or strictly limited. They are restricted in Sweden. 

In France visits are suspended in establishments housing elderly and dependent people.

Restaurants and shops closed

In Italy only essential shops selling foodstuffs or healthcare items are allowed to open.

Austria has decided to close non-essential shops from Monday and to close cafes and restaurants at 3:00 pm.

Bulgaria has closed non-essential shops.

In Belgium, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants will be closed until April 3. Shops will be closed at the weekend, except for grocers and chemists

In the Czech Republic, restaurants must close between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Madrid authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to close their outside areas.

Borders controlled or closed

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have announced the almost total closure of their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles.

Ukraine plans to close its borders to foreigners for at least two weeks.

Poland has imposed health checks at all it borders.

Austria has suspended rail links, and almost entirely closed its border with Italy, requiring medical certificates and health checks from people seeking entry. It has also suspended air links with France, Spain and 
Switzerland.

Slovenia has also set up health vetting measures at the border with Italy.

Germany has strengthened checks at the French border.

Schools closed

Schools and universities are closed in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Ukraine.

Pupils will also stay at home next week in Belgium, Croatia, France, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland, and in most German regions.

Gatherings banned

In Belgium, Cyprus and Italy all gatherings have been banned.

The Czech Republic has banned meetings of more than 30 people.

Denmark and France are to drop the threshold to 100 people.

Iceland, from midnight on Sunday, and the Netherlands and Switzerland have outlawed gatherings of more than 100 people as have Austria, Hungary and Romania for indoor meetings, with 500 for those outdoors.

Finland and Sweden have set the bar at 500 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on organisers to cancel non essential events gathering less than 1,000 people, a threshold also in force in Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

Moscow has banned meetings of more than 5,000 people.

Transport disrupted

Rome's second airport, Ciampino, is to close from Friday evening, while Fiumicino, which handles international flights, is to close one of its three terminals from March 17.

In Slovakia all international airports are closed.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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