Christmas in lockdown: How Australia compares
The world is headed into the festive season like no other year, with many countries going into lockdown again, effectively cancelling Christmas with even tighter rules than before as infections soar around the globe and hopes for a happy holiday with family fade for millions of people.
This is how millions around the globe will celebrate Christmas and New Year this year, and how it compares to Australia.
Anthony S. Fauci, director of America's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Christmas season may be worse than Thanksgiving for the spread of the virus, as it lasts longer, going into the New Year.
The middle of January "could be a really dark time for us," Dr Fauci told CNN.
California announced its full lockdown restrictions would run through the holiday.
New York, which attracts most of its tourists during the Christmas period, faces another full lockdown and all indoor dining has already been banned.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a new shutdown in New York City could be coming within weeks, possibly right after Christmas, as the Big Apple struggled to keep COVID-19 metrics low.
"We are just on the verge of a huge breakthrough with a vaccine, but we're also dealing with a second wave. We've got to beat it back, we got to protect lives, we got to protect our hospitals", De Blasio said.
De Blasio had announced that there had been 160 hospitalisations on Sunday, below the city's 200 threshold. But the seven-day hospitalisation rate was 2.89 per 100,000 people - above the 2.0 threshold. Meanwhile, there was a 5.51% positivity rate (seven-day average) and 2,813 cases; the city wants to be below 5% and 500 cases a day.
The UK has implemented Tier 4 lockdowns in London and much of the south of the country as a new and stronger strain of COVID-19 spreads across the country and international nations close their borders to UK travel and trade.
Shadow Minister mental health Dr Rosena Alin-Khan has said: "Christmas plans are ruined for families up and down the country because of Government neglect, incompetence and an inability to get on top of this virus.
"Dither and delay has cost lives with more to come. The mental health implications of this will be tragic," according to The Telegraph.
PM Boris Johnson said that people will be asked to stay at home and work from home if they can, not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, not stay away from home overnight and can only meet one person from another household outside in a public space.
The new Tier 4 restrictions will prevent people travelling to other tiers.
Mr Johnson said he has brought in new measures 'with a very heavy heart'
The Prime Minister said: "I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year, and how important it is, for instance, for grandparents to see their grandchildren, for families to be together. So I know how disappointing this will be.
"But we have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes, we must change our response."
The new variant may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible
The new variant strain of the virus which causes COVID-19 may be up to 70 per more transmissible and could increase the R value by 0.4, Mr Johnson said.
The total number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has now passed more than two million since the outbreak began, according to the Government's dashboard.
Ontario has announced that a shutdown will begin on Boxing Day and last for four weeks in southern areas of the province and two weeks in northern areas.
The government had previously planned to implement the measures beginning on Christmas Eve, sources told Global News.
The shutdown includes an extended winter break for both high school and elementary students. Elementary and secondary age children will not return to classes as planned on Jan. 4 and will instead engage in remote learning until Jan. 11, when they would then return to in-person classes in all areas of the province.
Childcare centres are expected to remain open for the duration of the shutdown, though during the period where elementary students will be out of classes, the centres will be prohibited from serving school-age children. Before and after school programs must also be cancelled the week of Jan. 4.
Meanwhile, many businesses will be faced with restrictions, including restaurants and bars which will be limited to only take away and delivery.
Shopping malls, garden centres, general retail stores, hardware stores, pet stores, computer stores, cannabis stores, will all be limited to kerbside pick-up or delivery only.
Austria is opening ski resorts with limited capacity from Christmas Eve, for locals only. The country's chancellor Sebastian Kurz said skiing could resume from December 24, for the festive period - but only for people living close to the slopes.
Mr Kurz said lift capacity would be limited and hotels and accommodation providers would remain shut until January 7.
Restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs will also remain closed until January 7, allowing for the possibility that if infection rates drop, the government may loosen restrictions.
But the limited relaxation of rules for locals has been accompanied by new quarantine requirements for travellers.
Switzerland's federal council has announced a series of coronavirus measures ahead of Christmas, in an attempt to curb rising infection numbers.
They include the closure of bars and restaurants from 7pm; sporting and cultural activities are limited to five people; markets and museums are to close on Sundays and public holidays.
Up to five people from two households can gather for private events, but that number will increase to 10 for celebrations from December 24 to 26, and on New Year's Eve.
Swiss ski resorts have been permitted to open for domestic tourism, but strict coronavirus measures are in place in ski resorts.
There is a total ban on anyone from the UK entering the country.
The French government on December 3 recommended that Christmas and New Year's Eve gatherings be limited to a maximum of six adults - with no limit on children.
An easing of coronavirus restrictions in France scheduled for December 15 was delayed in light of new rising infection figures, and the recent advent of President Emmanuel Macron testing positive for the virus.
Cultural venues including theatres, museums, and cinemas had been due to reopen on December 15, but they will remain closed for three additional weeks.
France's curfew of 9pm to 6am was extended from 8pm to 6am.
An exception to the curfew will be made on Christmas Eve, but not on New Year's Eve.
French citizens will no longer need administrative certificates to leave their homes, as of December 15. Citizens will also be allowed to travel to other regions.
Restaurants and cafes are scheduled to reopen on January 20, 2021.
Italy has ordered a nationwide lockdown for the Christmas holiday.
The Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, said the latest lockdown would prevent a new wave of the virus that would be spread by families reuniting to share Christmas. He called the new move "a painful decision."
Personal visits of no more than two people per day will be allowed.
People are only allowed to go out for work, health, and grocery shopping.
No indoor dining is allowed.
The new lockdown will restrict movements until January 6.
Italy has the highest death toll in Europe, nearing 70,000.
All non-essential shops, services and schools across Germany will close until January 10, 2021.
Christmas Day gatherings in the country will be reduced from 10 people to only five from two different households.
The restrictions come as Germany grapples with a surge in cases.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on December 13 that "the philosophy is to stay at home."
Christmas church services will be subject to prior registration, and no singing will be allowed.
Alcohol will also be banned from all public spaces, and the annual New Year's Eve fireworks display will be cancelled.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has pledged economic help for all businesses affected by the lockdown.
Some states are also implementing additional measures. Bavaria, for example, will have a 9pm curfew.
Ms Merkel has said she wants to implement a full lockdown for as long as two weeks after Christmas, to bring down infection numbers.
NETHERLANDS AND CZECH REPUBLIC
The Netherlands and Czech Republic have said they will follow Germany's lead.
In a rare TV address, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said non-essential shops and businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres would close for five weeks.
Bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-October but the partial lockdown has not slowed the spread of the virus enough.
"The Netherlands will close for five weeks," Rutte said.
"We're not dealing with a simple flu like the people behind me think … I'm afraid we're going to have to swallow the bitter pill until things get better - which they will."
People were advised to stay at home and could have only a maximum of two guests a day, Rutte said, except for 24-26 December when the limit would be raised to three, excluding children under 13. Schools will close from Wednesday, he added, and the measures would last until January 19.
Restaurants, hotels and indoor sports venues in the Czech Republic, which reopened closed again.
Public gatherings will be limited to six people indoors and out, instead of the current 10 and 50, with a nationwide curfew from 11pm until 5am and an early start to Christmas school holidays, although shops will remain open.
Mexico's president is urging his citizens to cancel Christmas this year, as the number of daily new coronavirus cases hit a record-high in the Latin American country.
"Let's leave Christmas presents for another time," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said, as he tried to discourage people from traditional celebrations, and even avoid exchanging gifts.
Mr Obrador said widespread lockdown measures would not be imposed. Hospitals are expected to increase their capacity and staff extra workers during the holiday season.
The country's top health official, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said this week he anticipated a surge in the outbreak through January.
Data experts estimate that COVID-19 cases could spike, up to 4,000 a day, from a current average of less than 1,500, by the end of January.
"That's on the higher end if things get really bad," said Dr Guido David, head of the Octa Research Group based in the state-run University of the Philippines.
He said hitting 4,000 cases a day would be "very critical". He said if that happens, the health system will be overwhelmed, necessitating a return to a sweeping lockdown.
With infections retreating to below 1,500 a day and a death rate of less than 2 per cent in recent months, the government has been moving to revive a stricken economy, put people back to work and get them to spend once more.
Tens of thousands of factory workers, who were thought to have spread the virus, are back in economic zones in the suburbs that ring Metropolitan Manila.
People are returning to restaurants, public markets, gyms, spas and salons, and churches. Malls are seeing a noticeable jump in foot traffic, from nearly zero during the lockdown. Public transport is back up to 50 per cent.
But President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the public to forego plans to hold Christmas parties and large gatherings.
"Make it a sacrifice … We have suffered enough, and to suffer more is not acceptable any more. Please continue to obey protocols," he said in a Cabinet meeting.
The Hungarian and Slovenian governments both announced that they would relax their coronavirus-related restrictions in order to allow families to gather for Christmas.
A Hungarian government spokesman told a press conference that the curfew currently in force would be suspended from the evening of December 24 until the following morning and that children under 14 would not be included in the 10-person limit on gatherings.
However the Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller cautioned that "the epidemic is still a threat" adding that "the temporary lifting of the curfew is an option which should only be used carefully".
"It's important that this opportunity shouldn't make anyone careless or endanger those suffering from serious illnesses," she said, emphasising that particular care needed to be taken around older family members.
The government in neighbouring Slovenia also announced that restrictions on gatherings would be suspended from noon on December 24 until 8pm on December 25.
Six adults from two households will be able to meet within that time window and the ban on travel within the country in force since November will also be temporarily lifted.
Originally published as Christmas in lockdown: How Australia compares