As the epidemiological situation worsens, countries are establishing measures to limit the freedom of movement of their citizens. These are the measures taken in Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and Italy:
Confinement measures in EU countries
Mobility restrictions in the EU
New virus variants
The leaders noted the seriousness of the situation especially in the light of the new variants. They showed determination to limit the spread of the virus by adopting similar measures among the member states and highlighted the importance of increasing the sequencing capacity.
The leaders welcomed the fact that the Council had adopted earlier in the day, by written procedure, a recommendation on a common framework for the use, validation and strengthening the use of rapid antigen tests and on the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results.
Borders and the single market
The leaders discussed the importance of keeping borders open to ensure the functioning of the EU’s single market.
We are convinced borders must remain open. At the same time, we are also convinced restrictions on non-essential travel must be considered. @EUCouncil recommendations might have to be adapted in this respect. #EUCO #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/X8Vv3UPrPJ
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) January 21, 2021
The leaders acknowledged that the Council may need to review its recommendations on non-essential travels into the EU in light of the risks posed by the new virus variants.
The leaders expressed their will to accelerate vaccination and highlighted that commitments on deliveries made by companies must be respected.
Leaders reaffirmed the need to have a close follow-up of the vaccination process. All possible means will be examined to ensure rapid supply, including early distribution to avoid delays.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council
The European Council members agreed to work on a standardised and inter-operable form of proof of vaccination for medical purposes.
We think that we should be able to agree on common elements to include in certificates for medical purposes. And at a later stage we can see in which circumstances these certificates can be used.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council
Defending that vaccines should be treated as a global common good, the leaders reaffirmed their solidarity with third countries. They highlighted the importance of the Covax initiatve and Team Europe. The members of the European Council agreed that effective support should be delivered as soon as possible.
Andalusia maintains the perimetral closure
Last Friday 15 January, the President of the Andalusian Regional Government, Juanma Moreno, announced new measures to contain the pandemic, as a result of what he considered to be an “explosive increase in Covid-19 infections”:
- The perimeter closure of Andalusia is maintained. Entry or exit is only possible with justified cause.
- Closure of hostelry and shops at 6 p.m. Meetings limited to a maximum of four people, including tables in bars and restaurants.
- All eight provinces are closed to the public.
- Perimeter closure of the 219 municipalities with a rate of infection over 500 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.
- Closure of hostelry and non-essential commerce in the 91 municipalities (of these 219) with a contamination rate of more than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants. If authorised by the Spanish Government, home confinement in these 91 municipalities.
- Curfew is maintained from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. If authorised by the Spanish Government, it will be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- It is permitted for federated sportspeople, high level or high performance athletes, trainers, judges or referees to travel unaccompanied for sporting activities in official competitions that are authorised at all times by the health authorities and which are accredited by a sports licence or federation certificate provided that they do not come from a municipality with a perimeter closure.
From the South, we send a hug of affection and solidarity to all the countries of the European Union
Andalusians are asked to stay at home after 8:00 p.m.
The Minister of Health and Families, Jesus Aguirre, has intervened this Thursday in the Parliament of Andalusia to report on the evolution of the pandemic in Andalusia, focusing on the development of vaccination against Covid-19, which has stressed that “is based on a strategy that is defined by planning and anticipation, as has always acted the Andalusian Government from the beginning.
Aguirre has begun his speech asking the Andalusians to stay at home from 20.00 hours voluntarily, after the refusal of the central government to advance the curfew, after the last Interterritorial held at the Palace of San Telmo in Seville.
Regarding the Covid-19 vaccination, in order to meet the deadlines, he has insisted on his request made to the Spanish Government so that “as far as possible, they supply us with a greater number of doses of the vaccine, because our objective is to vaccinate all Andalusians as soon as possible. And precisely the rate of vaccination will depend on the doses of the vaccine that we receive”.
The Andalusian Vaccination Strategy of Covid-19, which follows the latest document of the Vaccination Strategy against this disease of the Ministry of Health, has been included in the 24/7 Plan, which details the vaccination groups and the deadlines for administering the doses. This Plan has been incorporated into the Strategic Flu Plan/Covid 19 in Andalusia for the 2020-2021 campaign.
A Plan implemented in the Andalusian healthcare system which, according to Aguirre, “has sufficient capacity to significantly increase the number of doses administered”. As an example, he recalled that “in one week in the vaccination campaign we administered more than 439,000 doses”.
On 14 January 2021, the Prime Minister announced that the curfew would be brought forward from 20:00 to 18:00 throughout metropolitan France from Saturday 16 January 2021 for a minimum of 15 days.
The aim of the curfew is to limit gatherings during which barrier measures are less well applied and where the virus circulates rapidly, while limiting the impact on the economy already strained by the epidemic.
It is therefore forbidden to go out and travel without a certificate from 6pm to 6am throughout metropolitan France, as there are fines of €135 and up to €3,750 in the event of a repeat offence.
In addition, given the risk of propagation of variant strains of COVID-19 the cross-border flow will be reduced. From Monday 18 January 2021, travellers coming from outside the European Union will have to present a negative PCR test to enter the national territory and undertake on their honour to comply with a seven-point limit.
In the few countries where it is not possible to carry out a PCR test, an arrival screening system will be set up with a mandatory week in a place of accommodation validated by the public authorities.
The federal government and the governments of the federated entities meeting today in the Concertation Committee, by videoconference, discussed the epidemiological situation. The situation has been evolving positively for several weeks in our country, more favourably than in a number of other European countries.
The Consultation Committee notes that the number of contaminations is slowly decreasing. In spite of this general downward trend, the reproduction rate is again slightly increasing (Rt = 1.004). The occupancy rate in intensive care also remains at a high level.
According to the Consultation Committee, however, it is still too early to assess the possible impact of return trips, end-of-year holidays and the reopening of schools.
The Consultation Committee has therefore taken the following decisions:
- Compulsory teleworking is maintained. There will be more checks on the workplaces of workers who have to comply with quarantine.
- Non-essential travel remains strongly discouraged. There will be more checks on compliance with the testing obligation and the quarantine obligation after a non-essential journey. Checks will also be strengthened when travellers return to the roads. Existing travel rules will continue to apply at least until after the Carnival holidays.
- Vaccination is being stepped up. The Consultation Committee asks the Task Force on Vaccination to speed up the pace of vaccination and make it more effective. The announcements concerning the doubling of the quantity of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech through European procurement are particularly important in this context.
- There will be more tests. Health ministers and the Testing Task Force are tasked with increasing the number of PCR and antigenic tests within the current testing capacity.
- Vigilance in teaching. More attention will have to be paid to the respect of sanitary and quarantine measures among school-age children, especially school children from our neighbouring countries which have a less favourable epidemiological situation.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the federal states have decided that the restrictions currently in place to contain the COVID-19 pandemic are to be extended until the end of January. Private meetings are to be further limited. In areas with high incidences, there will also be a restriction on how far people may move from their homes.
At their first online meeting this year, the Chancellor and the state premiers decided to extend the COVID-19 restrictions until 31 January 2021. The aim is still to push numbers back down below 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period. Federal and state governments again urged all citizens to reduce their contacts to an absolute minimum and stay at home as far as possible.
Limiting private meetings
The restrictions currently in place are to be tightened, such that households may only meet up with one other person who does not belong to their household. In districts where the seven-day incidence exceeds 200 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the federal states are to take appropriate further-reaching steps. In particular, people will only be permitted to move within a 15 kilometre radius of their place of residence, unless they have a compelling reason for doing so. Day trips are specifically mentioned as not constituting a compelling reason.
With a view to the vaccination campaign that has now started, the federal government will provide the individual federal states with reliable delivery dates for the vaccine doses, on the basis of the information provided by the manufacturer, to allow the states to put in place an effective appointments management system at local level. By mid-February at the latest, the vaccine will be offered to all residents of care facilities. In the first quarter of 2021, it can be expected that other vaccines will also be authorised for use, and thus that additional vaccine doses will be supplied.
Measures for schools and nurseries to remain in effect
The federal and state governments have stressed that for educational purposes and to enable parents to reconcile their family and professional commitments, schools and nurseries are crucially important. Nevertheless, the measures taken by the federal states in this area too, as laid out in their decision dated 13 December 2020, will have to be extended until the end of January.
Entitlement to “child sick pay” for a longer period
The German government will put in place the legal basis to ensure that each parent is entitled to ten more days of “child sick pay” in 2021 (20 days in the case of single parents). The entitlement covers days when parents are required to take time off work to look after their sick children at home. The federal and state governments have also announced an initiative to attract volunteers to conduct extensive rapid tests in pension and care homes.
The Council of Ministers approved, at its meeting on 13 January, the decree-law on further urgent provisions for the containment and prevention of the epidemiological emergency caused by Covid-19 and the holding of elections for the year 2021, extending the state of emergency to 30 April 2021.
These are the main novelties of the decree-law:
Shifts between regions
The decree confirms, until 15 February 2021, the ban already in force on any movement between different Regions or Autonomous Provinces, with the exception of those motivated by proven work requirements, situations of necessity or health reasons. Returning to one’s residence, domicile or home is still allowed.
Moving to other homes
From 16 January 2021 until 5 March 2021, a maximum of two additional persons may go to another inhabited private dwelling between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. once a day, in addition to those already living in the dwelling of destination. The person or two persons moving may, in any case, take with them their children under the age of 14 and the disabled or dependent persons who live with them. Such travel may take place within the same Region, in the yellow area, and within the same Municipality, in the orange area and in the red area, except for the provisions for travel from Municipalities with up to 5,000 inhabitants.
If mobility is limited to the municipal area, travel from municipalities with a population of no more than 5,000 inhabitants and for a distance of no more than 30 kilometres from their borders is allowed, with the exclusion in any case of travel to provincial capitals.
Establishment of the white zone
A so-called ‘white’ area is established, in the Regions with a ‘type 1’ scenario, a ‘low’ risk level and an incidence of infection, for three consecutive weeks, of less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In the “white” area the restrictive measures provided for by the Prime Minister’s Decrees (DPCM) for the yellow, orange and red areas do not apply, but the activities are carried out according to specific protocols. In the same areas, however, specific restrictive measures may be adopted by Prime Ministerial Decree in relation to certain activities that are particularly relevant from an epidemiological point of view.
The Council of Ministers met extraordinarily on Monday 18 January to reinforce measures to combat the pandemic. Thus, in addition to the measures already in place, the Government decided:
- Ban movement between municipalities at weekends.
- Submission of a declaration by the employer for those travelling on public roads for work purposes.
- Service companies with more than 250 workers must communicate to ACT within the next 48 hours the nominal list of all workers whose face-to-face work they consider indispensable.
- Limit shop opening hours to 8 pm on working days and 1 pm on weekends. Food retail outlets may only operate until 5 pm on weekends.
- Prohibit sales of goods to the wicket. In the case of cafes and restaurants, wicket sales are only allowed for packaged and non beverage products;
- Ban the opening of restaurants in shopping centres, even on take-away.
- Prohibit gatherings and consumption of food in the vicinity of restaurants and cafés.
- Shut down all sports facilities, including outdoor tennis and padel courts.
- Closure of day centres, senior universities and social areas.
- Forbidding people to stay in gardens and public leisure areas.
- Prohibition of promotional campaigns that promote the movement of people.
- Operation of ATL centres for children up to 12 years old.
In addition to these measures, the Government has also determined:
- To increase the surveillance by the security forces, especially in the vicinity of school spaces, as well as by the ACT.
- Accelerate vaccination in residential structures for the elderly so as to complete the first dose by the end of January.
In view of the evolving epidemiological situation in the country, the government has determined a series of extraordinary measures aimed at limiting the spread of the pandemic and protecting public health by ensuring supply chains for essential goods and services. Thus:
- Lockdown is established, except for a number of authorized trips, namely: acquisition of essential goods and services, performance of professional activities when telework does not take place, participation in the electoral campaign or the election of the President of the Republic, attendance at school establishments, compliance with the sharing of parental responsibilities, among others.
compulsory confinement for persons with COVID-19 or under active surveillance.
- iTeleworking must be adopted whenever the functions in question so permit, without the need for agreement of the parties; teleworking is not compulsory for workers in essential services.
- the exceptional and temporary regime of early voting rights applies to voters who are in compulsory confinement, namely citizens residing in residential structures for the elderly and in other responses dedicated to elderly people.
- Closure of a wide range of facilities and establishments, including cultural and leisure activities, sports activities and spas, is determined.
- Retail and service activities in establishments open to the public are suspended, with the exception of authorized establishments.
- Catering and similar establishments are to operate exclusively for home delivery or take-away.
- Public services will provide face-to-face service by appointment, and the provision of services through digital means and contact centres is maintained and strengthened.
- Fairs and markets are allowed to operate, only for the sale of food products.
- Celebrations and other events are prohibited, with the exception of religious ceremonies.
- Events in connection with the election campaign and the election of the President of the Republic are permitted.
In addition to these measures, the Council of Ministers has decided to review the misdemeanour regime in the context of the calamity, contingency and warning situation and is aggravating the misdemeanour:
- Failure to comply with teleworking is now considered a very serious offence;
- Failure to test Covid-19 on arrival at the airport becomes a misdemeanour punishable by a fine of EUR 300 to EUR 800.
Fines are doubled during the State of Emergency.
The six-month period is considered necessary, based on scientific criteria and expert recommendations, to begin to overcome both the current second wave of the pandemic and its most damaging stage.
The State of Alarm is the legal provision that allows restrictions on mobility and contacts so that the Autonomous Communities that consider it necessary can apply it with complete constitutional coverage.
The regional presidents will be responsible for the implementation of the measures of this decree in their respective territories and may decide on the level of application of the measures of this decree according to their situation.
A general ban on night-time mobility is established between 11pm and 6am, with each Autonomous Community being able to modulate its start between 10pm and midnight and its end between 5am and 7am. Its application will be for the whole country except for the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands, due to its better epidemiological situation.
During this period, circulation will only be possible for legitimate reasons such as the purchase of medicines, fulfilment of work obligations, care of adults or minors and return to the home.
Mask prices in Europe
The Spanish government has reduced the maximum price of surgical masks sold to the public by 25%, from 0.96 euros to 0.72 euros for the disposable surgical mask unit. In addition, it has also recently approved a reduction in the VAT rate applicable to surgical masks from 21 to 4 percent.
The Portuguese government has approved two measures to make the cost of disposable masks more competitive. The first of the measures, approved on 7 May, is a reduction in VAT on masks from 23% to 6% until 31 December 2020. The other measure, applied since 13 April, is a reduction in the percentage of profits, which may reach a maximum benefit of 15%.
The United Kingdom had a temporary zero VAT rate that came into force on 1 May and ended on 31 October 2020.
In France, VAT on masks is 5.5%. And the maximum price for surgical masks is 0.95 euros.
In the Netherlands, masks are exempt from VAT. This applies to all types of masks and not only to surgical masks.
The Italian government established on 26 April that the maximum unit price of each mask must be 0.50 euros.
On 3 May 2020, the Belgian Federal Public Finance Service announced a 6% VAT on the supply, intra-community acquisition and import of protective devices from 4 May to 31 December 2020, including masks and hydro-alcoholic gels.