The governments of European countries are each responding in their own way to the second wave of coronavirus. Here we summarise the main measures being implemented in 20 mainland nations.


Austria has reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing for shops and public transport, imposed a 1am closing time on bars and restaurants, and limited non-seated gatherings in public places to 10 people. A “mini lockdown” has been imposed on the Kuchl region in the Land Salzburg state, where public events are currently completely banned, visits to care homes forbidden, and restaurants have to shut at 5pm.


Shops must shut at 10pm, cafes 11pm, restaurants 1am. Maximum 10 people at a table in a restaurant, four people at a table in cafes. No more than four people (except the under-12s and those living under the same roof) may gather together, either at home or in public spaces. Each person should limit contact with others of more than 15 minutes to a maximum of three people per month. For public events, no more than 200 people inside and 400 outside. No festivals, no discos, but all other sport and cultural venues open. Home working where possible.

Graph: Europe daily cases


Masks are mandatory on public transport, in shops and at public events. Bars and clubs must close by midnight, while restaurants can only serve customers outside. Organisers of events and gatherings of more than 50 people are now required to obtain a permit from authorities five days in advance. Schools were able to choose whether to stay open or teach remotely in the new school year, and over 90% chose in-person lessons.

Czech Republic

The country has the worst infection record in Europe, after touting its success in spring as one of the first countries to introduce mask-wearing. A state of emergency was introduced on 5 October, followed by an escalating series of restrictions. Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces including public transport, as well as at outdoor tram and bus stops, platforms and waiting rooms. Pubs and restaurants shut from 14 October and are restricted to selling on a takeaway basis from dispensing windows, and only until 8pm. Gatherings of more than six people outside or indoors are prohibited, organised or otherwise, with only precisely specified exceptions. All schools except kindergartens have switched to distance learning, with pupils in the second stage of primary school being divided into half-classes for the next two weeks.


New restrictions were imposed on 19 September and extended until 31 October. Masks are mandatory on public transport and when standing in cafes and restaurants. Bars and restaurants must close by 10pm and public gatherings are capped at 50. In April, Denmark became one of the first western countries to reopen schools, with teaching carried out in “micro-groups” of no more than 12 and staggered starting times, but without compulsory mask-wearing.

Map: Europe cases


Finland has rolled out new restrictions this month. Masks are required on public transport, at airports and in parliament, and are recommended for employees in shops. Customers in bars and restaurants must be seated. In the country’s six worst-affected regions, hospitality venues must operate at half capacity and close at 11pm. In less affected areas, alcohol can be served until midnight and venues must close at 1am, with no restrictions on customer numbers. The maximum for indoor and outdoor public gatherings was cut from 500 people to 50 in September. Schools are open as normal, without masks, but with online lessons when an outbreak is detected. Employees are advised to work from home wherever possible in areas where the number of cases is increasing.


Masks are mandatory outdoors and in shops, restaurants and indoor public spaces in all areas where the virus is spreading rapidly. A curfew comes into force in the Paris region and eight other cities deemed on “maximum alert” from midnight on Saturday. The curfew from 9pm to 6am will be imposed for at least four weeks but could be extended until 1 December. Bars are already shut in areas of “maximum alert”, while restaurants will remain open, but only until 9pm. Customers must leave contact details and there can be no more than six people at a table. Events of more than 1,000 people are banned in high-risk areas, as well as gatherings of more than 10 people in public places, parks and gardens. A maximum of six people are advised at private gatherings at home. University lecture halls, canteens and classrooms must operate at 50% capacity; home working where possible 2-3 days a week.


The heads of Germany’s 16 federal states on Wednesday agreed on new uniform restrictions to contain outbreaks in coronavirus hotspots: in cities and regions seeing more than 35 infections per 100,000 people over the space of 75 days, masks will be mandatory in public gathering places. Where the seven-day infection rate rises above 50 cases per 100,000 people, private gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 10 participants or the members of two households, and bars and restaurants ordered to close at 11pm.

Map: new infections over last 14 days


Masks are mandatory in all enclosed spaces including work spaces, schools and all forms of public transport, and encouraged in restaurants when customers are not eating or drinking. Outdoors, they are compulsory at group gatherings. Restaurants, bars and cafes must close at midnight. No more than four people can be served at a table, unless they are relatives, when the number can rise to six. Gatherings indoors and outdoors are limited to nine people, and no more than 20 can attend baptisms, marriages or funerals. Concerts are banned. Schools are operating nationwide, although some have shut because of outbreaks. Work hours are staggered in the civil sector, and at least 40% of the workforce in both the public and private sector are required to work from home.


The country is experiencing a second wave with much higher daily case numbers than the first. The government is determined to avoid a full lockdown, but since 1 September has closed its borders to almost all visitors. Masks are mandatory in most indoor public places, with fines recently introduced for non-compliance. Bars and restaurants must shut by 11pm. Gatherings are allowed, but capped at 500 people. Schools are open with temperature checks for pupils from 1 October. Some individual schools with Covid outbreaks have closed.


Masks remain compulsory on public transport and in shops, theatres, beauty salons and certain other indoor settings. A nationwide ban on visits to homes or gardens was imposed this week, with exceptions for those caring for children or vulnerable people. In outdoor settings away from homes or gardens, up to six people from no more than two households can gather while keeping social distance. Bars and restaurants can operate as takeaways or serve food outdoors, but with no indoor dining. Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, counties that border Northern Ireland, a virus hotspot, have additional restrictions this week, including the closure of non-essential businesses, as well as gyms, pools and leisure centres.

Map: restrictions on bars and restaurants in Europe


Masks are compulsory outside across Italy as well as in enclosed spaces such as shops, bars, museums, airports and all forms of public transport. Bars and restaurants must close at midnight. Tables have to be sanitised after each customer and must be at least 1 metre apart. People are strongly advised to host gatherings of no more than six people inside their homes and to wear masks at home if it is difficult to maintain a safe distance with others. Schools reopened across the country in September. Teachers and pupils over the age of six must wear masks except when sitting at desks, as long as physical distancing is maintained. Temperatures are taken on arrival.


Tough new restrictions, due to last at least a month, came into force on 14 October. Masks are mandatory on public transport. The government aims to make them compulsory in all indoor public spaces, but has to work out how that can done legally. Meanwhile, people are “strongly advised” to wear them in shops, museums, government offices, cinemas and theatres. Cafes, bars and restaurants and cannabis cafes are shut for at least four weeks except for takeaways. The sale and carrying of alcohol is banned between 8pm and 7am. Shops apart from food stores must also close at 8pm. All events for more than 30 people have been cancelled and people may invite no more than three visitors to their homes in any 24-hour period, excluding children. Gatherings in public places should not exceed four if they are not from the same household. Schools remain open but may close if there are too many infections. Masks are recommended, as they are in universities and colleges, and should become mandatory once the necessary legislation has been passed. Working from home is recommended.


National restrictions were eased this month, allowing alcohol to be served after midnight and crowds of up to 600 at outdoor events, but municipalities have imposed local measures that take precedence and vary according to infection rates. In municipalities in the Oslo region, for example, masks are either mandatory or strongly recommended on public transport when a distance of 1 metre cannot be respected, as well as for all home carers. Restaurants, cafes and other places where food and/or alcohol is served must register all their customers. In many municipalities, indoor events with more than 50 participants without fixed seating are banned, as are private gatherings with more than 20 participants or where a distance of 1 metre cannot be maintained. Schools reopened in April and pupils have not so far proved a significant driver of new infections. Most municipalities in and around the capital recommend working from home.

Map: mask rules across Europe


Poland relaxed most measures in summer. After seeing daily cases in the hundreds throughout the first wave, in the past two months case numbers have soared and restrictions are returning. Masks are mandatory indoors and on public transport, and starting from mid-October they will again be mandatory in public outdoor places as well. Bars and restaurants are open with no restrictions on hours. Gatherings are allowed, but physical distancing rules are in place for indoor buildings such as theatres. Schools are following a hybrid in-person/online system and mostly remain open for now.


After it won plaudits for its early response and swift action, cases have risen and a “state of calamity” has been declared. Masks are mandatory on public transport, in shops, and in enclosed or busy places. Bars and restaurants must close by 11pm. Cafes and restaurants near schools can serve groups of no more than four customers per table. Gatherings are limited to five people, with weddings and baptisms allowed 50 guests, but university parties banned.


One of Europe’s champions in terms of low numbers in spring, Slovakia has further toughened existing restrictions from 15 October. Masks are mandatory outdoors when in city or town centres or on the streets, but not obligatory in forests or natural environments. Bars, restaurants and cafes are banned from serving indoors and limited to takeaway and outdoor seating facilities. Large gatherings are cancelled except weddings, baptisms and funerals. Top sporting competitions are allowed, but must take place without an audience and only after participants have tested negative. Secondary schools are closed and restricted to distance learning. Primary school pupils are required to wear masks in class.

Chart: summary of measures in different countries


Four months after its strict 13-week lockdown was lifted, Spain has become the worst-affected country in western Europe, with Madrid its worst-hit region. Masks are compulsory in outdoor and enclosed spaces across the country. The city of Madrid and eight satellite towns are in a limited lockdown, with people allowed to enter or exit the affected areas only on work, school or medical grounds or for other pressing reasons. Public and private gatherings are limited to six people, and bars and restaurants must operate at 50% of their interior capacity and close by 11pm. From 15 October, bars and restaurants in Catalonia will be limited to offering delivery or takeaway services. Shops and markets will operate at 30% capacity, and gyms, cinemas and theatres at 50%, and children’s play areas will close at 8pm. The regional government of Navarra has ordered all bars and restaurants to reduce their capacity to 30% and to close at 10pm. It has also said that no more than six people should meet.


New rules will come into effect on 19 October allowing regional authorities to introduce their own local guidelines. These may include recommendations to avoid public transport, unnecessary travel, visiting people in a risk group, and going to shopping centres, gyms and pools. Masks are not recommended. National rules require customers in bars and restaurants to be seated, with groups separated by at least 1 metre, and gatherings of more than 50 are banned. People have been urged to work from home if they can, stay at home if they have symptoms, wash their hands, respect physical distancing, avoid large social gatherings, and use means of travel other than public transport if possible. People in high-risk groups or aged over 70 are still expected to avoid shops, restaurants and public transport and if possible have their food or medicines delivered.


Fourteen of Switzerland’s 26 cantonal authorities are from Friday requiring people to wear masks while shopping and limiting opening times for bars and restaurants. The Swiss government relaxed restrictions on 1 October to allow cultural and sports events with more than 1,000 visitors.

Reporting by Rory Carroll, Angela Giuffrida, Jon Henley, Sam Jones, Philip Oltermann, Helena Smith, Robert Tait, Shaun Walker and Kim Willsher

Europe correspondents

The GuardianTramp

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