With Christmas right around the corner, people all over the world are preparing for the festive season with caveats. Here in Ireland, restaurants, pubs and other lesiure venues are back open. Other countries such as Germany have decided against such a loosening of restrictions, with a lockdown expected in force during the convivial period. How are other countries coping during these times? I spoke to people from various locations to find out what restrictions are currently in place.
What has been described as the epicentre of the COVID 19 pandemic, The United States of America has experienced over 300,000 deaths with states like New York and New Jersey bearing the brunt of the fatalities. Different states have imposed contrasting lockdowns. Speaking exclusively to The Student Social Eric Moran, a college student described the current situation in his State.
“In Montgomery County, Maryland there is a mask mandate”. As is the case in Ireland they are only required in work settings and “convenience stores”.
While Maryland has seen adherence to mask wearing, Eric mentioned how other states have taken a more carefree attitude to the practice – “I was in West Virginia (a border State) getting gas (petrol) and was shocked to see that no one was wearing masks in the shop”.
The U.S Northeastern State seen here. Courtesy of Britannica
When it comes to daily life, he painted a similar picture to one our readers may be familiar with – “Everything is open for the most part, you just need to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing” adding that “every place I have been too since the pandemic started has been safe”.
With promising vaccine developments underway Eric said his friends and neighbours “couldn’t wait to take the vaccine”.
While the US State of Maryland has a familiar setting to ours when it comes to restrictions, Ali Tordai, currently residing in Romania offers a different reality. Ali, a psychology student who travelled to Romania from Ireland on a family trip over the summer has been stuck in the country ever since, as it is difficult to return due to a lack of flights.
With over 6,000 reported COVID cases a day mask wearing in all settings has become the norm. “The minute you step out of your house you have to have it on, if you get caught without it you get fined 100 euro” she said, adding that “Someone got fined for sweeping the leafs outside his own home without a mask on”.
Mask wearers in the streets of Bucharest, Romania. Courtesy of Xinhua
She also described strict curfew regulations with similar fines in place if said curfews are broken. These curfews operate from late afternoon until early morning.
Describing daily life – “Every shop you go into takes your temperature with shopping centres taking automatic temperature checks generated through the use of camera technology”.
Leisure activities have also been severely restricted – “You aren’t allowed to eat indoors, you can only obtain takeaway”, although “some pubs are open in outdoor settings”.
Northern Ireland is currently one of the few jurisdictions in the world with a vaccine rollout. Our very own sub editor, Sophie Fletcher, a resident of Northern Ireland described a sense of “wariness” among certain people about the vaccine, with some suggesting it was too rushed. Sophie added that others have been given a “more hopeful look, like the end of Covid is in site”.
Vaccine administered here at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Courtesy of The Irish News.
Describing daily life in the North she said “Everyone has to wear a mask”.
“There was an issue with shops reopening after our last lockdown”. A shopping centre in Belfast called ‘Abbey Centre’ has seen hundreds of shoppers coalesce with “mile long queues” on a daily basis. The shop was open for 36 hours to prevent such an occurrence with Sophie adding “that definitely didn’t go to plan for them”.
She mentioned the fact that the authorities haven’t been enforcing any regulations as far as she could see.
As mentioned above, Germany’s lockdown will remain in place during the Christmas period. Speaking to the The Student Social, Bibot Ivanyuk, a Hungarian citizen who currently resides in Germany described the current lockdown as a divergence from the nominal restrictions that were in place over the summer. While the rest of Europe saw severe restrictions in place during the spring and summer months, Ivanyuk said “you could literally do anything as long as you kept your distance and wore a mask”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (above) has pleaded with Germans to ahdere to the advice.
She said November saw a light lockdown imposed – “all restaurants were closed but nothing else”.
As case number continue to rise, Germany is now imposing a much more severe lockdown, with all restaurants closing alongside hairdressers, salons and clothing stores. Schools are also expected to close for Christmas break early this year, with a rule of four in homes across Germany being imposed during the Christmas period.
She added that the German govt is acting in advance of potential New Years Eve gatherings, with a ban on the sale of fireworks.
Another COVID 19 hotspot, Belgium has witnessed over 18,000 deaths. With one of the most severe lockdowns in Europe since the pandemic began, the restrictions have since been loosened.
Arlynn Longueville, a Belgian student who lives in Oostkamp, West Flanders is currently in her last year of college – “I have been doing online classes for University since the end of October” adding that the classes will continue until the end of February. “I’m in my last year of my bachelor’s degree so it’s sad to have to finish it like this.”
Shoppers in the city streets of Belgium wearing masks. Courtesy of Politico.
Emerging from the spring, summer and early autumn lockdown, December has seen “non-essential shops reopening” with masks mandatory, including in the streets.
Christmas will see household restrictions in place – “you can only invite one person outside of your bubble and three if you stay in your garden”.
When it comes to travel she said all countries, besides Belgium are considered “red zones” meaning it is strongly discouraged to enter them. The capital, Brussels was even blocked off by those not resident in the region according to her.