Countries in Europe have been urged to enforce strict coronavirus restrictions to prevent an increase in the number of cases and deaths after Christmas.
But European Commission officials do not advise against travel.
Although, as in the UK, where there is a travel period between 23 and 27 December, some countries have made their own plans.
According to forecasts from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the lifting of all anti-coronavirus restrictions on December 21 will result in “another increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions … as early as the first week of January 2021”.
New confirmed cases are steadily falling across Europe, where more than 300,000 people with Covid-19 have died, but the committee is urging caution until vaccines against the virus are rolled out.
This has been the case since 3 December 13,518,808 cases reported in the EU and UK.
The country that has reported the most cases is France 2,244,635 , followed by Spain 1,665,775 and then the UK with 1,659, 256 , Italy with 1,641,610 , and Germany with 1,106,789 .
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “Every 17 seconds, a person loses life due to Covid-19 in Europe. The situation is stabilizing, but remains delicate.
“Like everything else this year, the end of year celebrations will be different. This year, saving lives must come before the celebration.”
However, the commission is not discouraging tourism and cross-border travel this Christmas.
“While travel itself is a risk factor, the widespread transmission of Covid-19 between Member States means that cross-border travel within the EU does not present a significant additional risk,” he said.
But the committee ‘strongly’ discourages people with coronavirus symptoms from traveling and recommends that travelers get vaccinated against the flu.
“Wherever possible, the options and capacities of public transport should be increased to reduce congestion, especially on days or times that are expected to be relatively busy, to ensure social distance,” he said.
“The use of masks should be mandatory in public transport and all vehicles should be well ventilated.”
They have also called on countries to consider imposing curfews, banning mass gatherings and extending school breaks, or introducing a period of online teaching to prevent students from bringing the virus back to school.
The EU is also promoting the use of “household bubbles”, meaning people are encouraged to spend the days of the festivities with the same people and to reduce further social contact.
The committee also recommends avoiding major religious services and allowing churches, synagogues and mosques to use online, TV or radio broadcasts instead.
Here’s how different countries in Europe handle Christmas:
After weeks of national lockdown, President Emmanuel Macron has said the restrictions will be relaxed starting Nov. 28. But most lockdown measures will remain in effect until just before the festive hiatus on December 15.
Shops, theaters and cinemas reopen in time for Christmas and people can visit their families during the holidays.
“We will be able to travel without permission, including between regions,” Macron said in a TV address earlier this week.
France has undergone a second national lockdown since October last year, this will be replaced by a nationwide curfew from 9pm to 7am. Curfew does not apply on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Prime Minister Jean Castex also announced this week that arbitrary border controls will be imposed to prevent French holidaymakers from skiing in neighboring Switzerland.
France is closing its ski lifts at Christmas to stop the spread of Covid-19, but they hope to reopen them from January 20th.
The prime minister has also said they will provide free Covid-19 vaccinations for everyone who is part of the social security system and has set aside € 1.5 billion of next year’s Social Security budget to cover costs.
Following the initial vaccination of 1 million people in January, an additional 14 million people will be vaccinated at high risk as of February.
Mr Castex said the spread of the virus in France continues to slow and would soon fall below the threshold of 10,000 new infections per day. France registered more than 80,000 new cases at the peak of the second wave in November.
The Spanish government is reportedly planning to put a limit of six people on Christmas parties.
They will also recommend that social gatherings be held on restaurant patios or other outdoor venues leading up to Christmas.
It is also clear that they will not call for celebrations and parades for the Feast of the Three Kings, which will be celebrated in Spain on January 5.
The plan also recommends ventilating indoor areas and maintaining social distance where necessary.
Health Minister Salvador Illa has said “nothing is set in stone,” and they are still considering what restrictions they will announce.
In Madrid, officials are asking the government to approve a large-scale testing program at pharmacies in the run-up to Christmas so that people can meet safely during the holidays.
A so-called ‘lockdown light’ placed in Germany a month ago has flattened the cases, but they have not gone down like in other European countries with tougher measures.
The lockdown means that bars, restaurants and nightlife have been closed and schools and shops have been kept open.
But one day this week, officials reported a record 487 new deaths from the coronavirus – the highest daily toll in the country since the pandemic outbreak.
The health minister said on Tuesday that the daily death rate is far too high, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the lockdown will continue until January 10.
Ahead of the holidays, restrictions have been tightened, with masks being introduced more widely in schools and travel is strongly discouraged. On December 1, the limit for social gatherings was reduced to two households and a maximum of five people.
However, there will be a temporary relaxation of the rules during the Christmas period. A maximum of ten people can gather between December 23 and January 1, although Ms. Merkel has urged the Germans to think carefully before meeting in groups of this size.
Most major Christmas markets have been canceled, but some local markets are hoping to continue with the restrictions in place.
Massive vaccination centers have been set up across the country in the hope that a vaccine will be approved in the country before the end of the year.
Strict rules are being implemented for Christmas, banning travel between regions from December 21 to January 6.
There is also a curfew between 10pm and 5am.
Restaurants may be open until 6pm in some regions, but only take-aways are allowed in other parts of the country. As in France, ski slopes should not close until January 7 and reopen.
It comes as Italy announced its highest daily Covid death toll since the start of the pandemic, with 993 fatalities.
“We cannot disappoint our ward,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a press conference.
“We need to eliminate the risk of a third wave that could arrive in January – and no less severe than the first and second,” he added.
There are exceptions when traveling for work, medical reasons or emergencies.
In addition to the regional travel bans, people are not allowed to leave their place of residence on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Cases in your area of Wales:
On Thursday, the country extended a nationwide lockdown for another week.
It will now take until December 14th.
Austria has now announced that skiing will begin on December 24, but ski lift capacity will be limited and restaurants, bars and hotels will remain largely closed until the beginning of January.
It also requires many people to enter the country during the Christmas season to be quarantined.
In effect, that will mean that, in most cases, skiing during the holidays is only possible on day trips for Austrian residents who live reasonably close to the Alps – a policy advisor who, according to Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, is “absolutely justified”.