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COVID-19

Covid-19 cases ‘explode’ in Europe: Which countries are under lockdown or curfew?

As Europe sees an "explosion" of Covid-19 cases many countries are reimposing tight restrictions that they had relaxed over the summer. Here's a round-up of what rules are in place in each country.

Covid-19 cases 'explode' in Europe: Which countries are under lockdown or curfew?
Police in the French Riviera city of Nice check permission forms. Photo: AFP

Europe has become the region with the highest number of registered cases of the new coronavirus,

The continent's 52 countries have a combined total of 11.6 million cases including more than 293,000 deaths, ahead of Latin America and the Caribbean which has reported 11.4 million cases with 407,000 deaths.

Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic. On Thursday The World Health Organization in Europe on Thursday said they were seeing an “explosion” of virus cases in the European region and warned mortality rates were also rising.

As a result lockdowns, curfews and tough restrictions are being imposed across Europe as it struggles to cope with the second wave of the coronavirus.

Here are the latest measures being taken:

UNITED KINGDOM: England's second lockdown starts Thursday for a month following neighbouring Wales and Northern Ireland. Schools and universities stay open with cafes and restaurants allowed to offer takeaways. Wales imposed a two-week 'circuit-breaker' lockdown on October 23rd with all non-essential trips out of the home barred. Some secondary schools have also closed.

FRANCE: The country went back into lockdown on October 30th, having earlier imposed curfews on some major cities in an attempt to curb the rapidly rising case numbers.

France's second lockdown is less strict than its spring restrictions and schools remain open along with some types of business. However all 'non essential' shops have had to close and every trip outside the home in France now requires an attestation permission form showing that the person in outside for an essential reason such as school, work or grocery shopping. Trips out for exercise are allowed for one hour per day, within 1km of the home.

Source ECDC

READ ALSO These are the 'essential' reasons you are allowed out of your home in France 

GREECE: Three-week lockdown starts on Saturday, with Greeks needing an authorisation by text message to leave their homes. Primary schools and creches stay open.

IRELAND: The first country in Europe to go back into lockdown on October 22nd. Schools remain open but non-essential trips outside the home are barred.

DENMARK: Does not have a lockdown in the general understanding of the term, but announced significant local restrictions on movement in the North Jutland region on November 5th. The measures are in the form of a request, and ask residents in seven northern municipalities not to leave their home areas. Restaurants, sports and cultural activities will also be closed for the next four weeks.

The decision by the Danish government is in response to a concerning outbreak of a mutated form of coronavirus which occurred in mink and has now been passed back to humans. 

The mutation “could pose a risk that future (coronavirus) vaccines won't work the way they should,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a press conference, adding: “It is necessary to cull all the minks.”

READ ALSO: How serious is Denmark's mink coronavirus mutation and outbreak?

SPAIN: Most of Spain's region have imposed perimeter confinements to close off the borders and stop people crossing between different regions. Many municpalities are also under perimetral confinements including all towns in Cantabria, the Basque Country and Murcia and all provincial capitals in Aragon and Asturias. Galicia has closed off all its provincial capitals plus 60 smaller municpalities while La Rioja has closed off the cities of Logroño and Arnedo. Andalusia has restrictions around provinces of Seville, Jaen and Granada. 

Madrid has taken the decision to limit movement in and out of the region only over the bank holiday weekends but imposed perimetral confinement of 35 healthcare zones within its territory for at least two weeks while Catalonia has a regional confinement and is limiting people to within their own municpalities at weekends.

LATEST: What are the restrictions in place in each of Spain's regions right now?

GERMANY: Bars, restaurants and leisure facilities have been closed since Monday November 2nd, and are slated to remain shut until the end of the month, with only take-out and deliveries allowed. Overnight stays for tourism purposes are also prohibited.

As opposed to the spring shutdown, Germany’s new oft-dubbed “lockdown light” still allows schools and kitas to remain open.

Up to 10 people from two separate households are also able to meet, and in some states outdoor facilities such as zoos and tennis courts can remain open as long as hygiene and social distancing measures are adhered to.

READ ALSO: Germany enters month-long partial lockdown

PORTUGAL: More than two-thirds of the population urged not to leave home except to go to work, school and do food shopping.

NORWAY:Premier Erna Solberg appealed Thursday for people to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid social contact even though the country has one of the lowest rates of the virus in Europe. 

That represents a reversal of the approach from just a few weeks ago, when a tentative reopening was announced. Solberg said that “we do not have time to wait and see if the measures we introduced the week before last are sufficient. We must act now to avoid a lockdown.”

Several of the new measures impact travel into the country, including for family members visiting Norway-based relatives. Solberg also advised strongly against travelling within Norway.

READ ALSO: Norway announces strict new coronavirus measures: Here are the details to know

SWITZERLAND: Non-essential shops closed in Geneva and its region, with people urged only to leave home when strictly necessary. 

In the majority of Switzerland, bars and restaurants are not allowed to open at night and meeting in large groups is restricted. 

ITALY: Local nighttime curfews go national fon Friday, from 10pm to 6am.

Several Italian regions are also under lockdown from Friday under a new three-tiered system.

MAP: Which zone is each region in under Italy’s new tier system?

BELGIUM: Despite being called a lockdown, people are free to move around  during the day. All non-essential shops closed, with homeworking now the norm.  A curfew ending at 5am has been in force since October 19th.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Shops must close at 8pm and on Sundays with curfew from 9pm. 

AUSTRIA: Curfew from 8pm to 6am since Tuesday, with museums, cinemas, theatres and swimming pools shut. Birthday parties and Christmas markets banned. 

READ: Everything you need to know about Austria's coronavirus shutdown 

People must be in their own homes or the homes of their 'life partners' and can only leave for work or to exercise. Picking up food or shopping is not allowed, but delivery is ok. 

SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA, CYPRUS, LUXEMBOURG: All under curfew.

KOSOVO: Curfew only for over 65s.

POLAND: Cinemas and most shopping centres closed.

THE NETHERLANDS: Cinemas, museums and other public spaces shut.

SWEDEN: Sweden has so far rolled out local coronavirus rules in 10 out of 21 regions. These vary depending on region, but the most common factors are to limit social contact, avoid indoor venues and avoid public transport. They take the form of strong recommendations which have a legal basis and are not considered optional, but are not coercive and you can generally not be fined for breaking them. Everyone in the country is also urged to follow national recommendations, such as working from home if they can, and avoiding large parties or gatherings.

 

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HEALTH

How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Switzerland’s health infrastructure is consistently rated among the best in the world, but how does it compare with other countries?

How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Whether in terms of politics, social system or economy, the Swiss often chart their own course, which fundamentally diverges from that of its European neighbours.

Healthcare is no exception.

The differences lie primarily in who finances the scheme — public versus private — and how the overall system functions.

Like much of the European Union, Switzerland has a universal health system, which means everyone in the country is covered by insurance and has access to medical care.

In most countries, the government typically has control, to a lesser or greater extent, over funding, health insurance, and health providers.

In France, for instance, most healthcare costs are covered by the state healthcare system, known as assurance maladie, and this is funded by taxes – healthcare costs account for about 13 percent of the average person’s gross salary.

In Germany, health costs are shared by employers and workers, with employees paying 7.5 percent of their salaries into a public health insurance fund, and companies matching that amount.

Italy’s national, system, called the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or simply SSN, which is financed mainly though federal and regional taxes, automatically covers all residents. Medical care is largely free of charge at the point of service.

Public healthcare also exists in Austria, with certain portions of salaries being automatically deducted to fund the scheme. However, healthcare is free of charge for low-income people or those who who are disabled, studying, or retired.

Although no longer part of the EU, the UK health system is also based on state healthcare via the NHS. It is funded by taxes which account for about 4.5 percent of the average citizens’ gross income.

What about Switzerland?

The system here is fundamentally different in that it is not tax-based or financed by employers, but rather by individuals themselves.

Everyone must have a basic health insurance coverage and purchase it from one of dozens of private carriers.

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian — is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap — premiums are based on the canton of residence and age, costing 300 to 400 francs a month on average — but it is quite comprehensive; it includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

There are no employer-sponsored or state-run insurance programmes, and the government’s only role is to ensure that all insurance companies offer the same basic coverage to everyone and that they have the same pricing.

While companies can’t compete on prices or benefits offered by the basic compulsory insurance — which are defined by the Health Ministry — they can, and do, compete on supplemental polices which offer perks not included in the basic coverage.

READ MORE: What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

All policies have deductibles (also called co-pays) that can range from 300 to 2,500 francs a year.

After the deductible is reached, 90 percent of all medical costs will be covered by insurance, with 10 percent being paid by the patient; however, this co-pay is capped at 700 francs a year for adults and 350 francs for children under 18.

The government does subsidise healthcare for the low-income individuals and households – defined as those for whom insurance premiums exceed 10 percent of their income.

What percentage of a person’s income goes to health insurance premiums?

This depends on wages and premiums, for instance, whether a person chose the cheapest option with a high deductible or the expensive one with a 300-franc deductible.

Generally speaking, however, based on the average monthly income of just over 7,000 francs, about 6.5 percent is spent on premiums.

What happens if you don’t take out an health insurance policy?

Anyone who arrives in  Switzerland must get insured within three months. If you don’t, the government will choose one for you and send you the bill. If this happens you may end up with more expensive premiums than you might have gotten if you shopped around yourself.

If you are still delinquent on your payments, your healthcare will be restricted to emergencies only; any other non-urgent medical treatment will be denied, unless you pay for it out of pocket.

The pros and cons of the Swiss system

Let’s look at the ‘cons’ first. Basically, there is one: the cost.

Not only are insurance premiums high and steadily increasing, but, at 7,179 francs per capita, Switzerland has the third most expensive healthcare scheme in the world — behind only the United States ($12,318) and Germany ($7,383).

Unlike taxpayer-funded models, there is no price grading according to income, so people on a low income pay a high proportion of their income for healthcare than higher earners. 

However, the system is generally efficient, has an extensive network of doctors, as well as well-equipped hospitals and clinics.

Patients are free to choose their own doctor and usually have unlimited access to specialists.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to see a specialist doctor in Switzerland without a referral

Waiting lists for medical treatments are relatively short.

According to a survey by the Organisation  for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) on how long patients in various countries typically wait for an appointment with a specialist, the share of people in Switzerland waiting a month or more is 23 percent, compared to 36 percent in France, 52 percent in Sweden, and 61 percent in Norway.

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