How Belgium's neighbouring countries are handling Christmas

How Belgium's neighbouring countries are handling Christmas
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While Belgium's Consultative Committee will decide on rules for the Christmas period on Friday, most of the neighbouring countries have already announced specific measures for the end-of-year festivities.

Germany: "With grandparents and grandchildren"

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday evening that the coronavirus measures will not only be extended, but also tightened further, the rules for the Christmas period remain unchanged.

For Christmas and New Year's, the German people will be allowed to celebrate with a maximum of up to 10 people at home, their own household included. Children up to the age of 14 are not counted.

"It should be a Christmas celebration that you can also have with your grandparents and grandchildren," Berlin mayor, Michael Müller, told reporters.

He recommends going into self-quarantine for a few days before the Christmas holidays to minimise the risk of infection, if possible.

For New Year's Eve, organising fireworks displays is not allowed to avoid gatherings of large groups in public places. There is no ban on the sale of fireworks, however.

Shops can remain open, albeit with a limit on the number of customers in the shop. The German people, however, are urged to do their Christmas shopping during the week, not the weekend, if possible.

The Netherlands: "Not yet close to good enough"

A decision on how the holidays can be celebrated will not be made before 8 December, according to the authorities. However, over the past week, almost as many Covid-19 infections were recorded as the week before, official figures showed on Tuesday.

The figures "do not yet come close to good enough," Dutch Health Minister Hugo De Jonge said, adding that a lot will depend on the evolution between now and 8 December.

"If people want to celebrate Christmas together, with slightly more flexible rules, we will have to do everything we can now," he said.

However, the yearly bonfires on the beach of Scheveningen on New Year's Eve will not take place this year, The Hague announced.

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France: "Limit the number of adults in a room"

While France is currently still locked down, President Emmanual Macron told the French people that they could celebrate Christmas with their family.

"Limit the number of adults in a room," he said on Tuesday, but did not name a maximum number of people that are allowed. Large gatherings remain forbidden.

The national lockdown is set to be lifted from 15 December, and will then be replaced by a curfew, from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

However, on 24 and 31 December, the curfew will not apply, but "a big street party on New Year's Eve is out of the question," Macron stressed.

From Saturday, the French non-essential shops are allowed to reopen, so the people can start spreading out their Christmas shopping.

United Kingdom: "five-day Christmas Covid bubble"

Across the UK - meaning England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - up to three households will be allowed to meet indoors, hug and stay with each other overnight from 23 to 27 December, reports BBC.

Northern Ireland has been granted a longer window of 22 to 28 December, to allow people the time to travel between the nations.

There is no maximum size for a Christmas bubble, reports The Guardian. However, households can only be part of one bubble.

This bubble remains in force for the whole period, meaning that households cannot suddenly join another bubble, for example on Boxing Day.

The relaxation of the restrictions will not be extended to New Year's Eve. "I know New Year is special for people," Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. "But the virus is still there."

Additionally, Scotland will likely tighten the "five-day Covid Christmas bubble" measures a little bit on Thursday, reports The Telegraph, as it could allow members of up to six households to meet in practice, she said.

Luxembourg: "Aiming for a normal Christmas"

Luxembourg decided on Wednesday to go into partial lockdown and shut down the hospitality industry and culture sector until 15 December.

What happens after that, including for the Christmas and New Year period, has not yet been decided.

"The government will do everything in its power to ensure that we can celebrate in the family circle," Luxembourg's Health Ministry said. "If we respect the rules, we can aim for a Christmas that is a little more normal than if we can only invite two people."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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