European nations ease Covid bans as New Zealand and Australia open travel bubble

·2-min read

As France enters a third lockdown to try to reduce rising numbers of Covid-19 infections, several European countries have started easing restrictions while New Zealand has opened a travel bubble with Australia.

The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed on Monday that pubs and restaurants will reopen for outdoor service next week, moving the country into the second phase of easing after three months of Covid restrictions.

In Greece, most retail stores were allowed to reopen on Monday, despite a surge in Covid infections.

The country is facing a deep recession, with lockdown measures in place since November putting increased pressure on the economy.

Also in the face of high infection numbers, Serbia has eased measures, with bars and restaurants allowed to serve guests outside at reduced capacity.

Cafes and restaurant terraces in Portugal reopened on Monday as middle- and high-school students returned to school after a drop in cases.

Museums and national monuments are also reopening, though many foreign tourists are still not allowed to enter the country.

From 12 April, non-essential shops as well as gyms and hair salons will reopen in England and a ban on overnight stays away from home will be lifted.

The UK is relaxing restrictions following a fall in the number of infections. More than 60 percent of the adult population has received a first dose of the vaccine.

"We think that these changes are fully justified by the data," Johnson said in a televised address. He added that there was no question of people being asked to provide their Covid status to go to shops or restaurants.

But he warned that international travel will take a while.

Non-essential international travel remains prohibited, and people arriving from abroad are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

British nationals arriving fin Britain from a “red list” of countries, including France, face quarantine in government-approved hotels.

The government's Global Travel Task Force is to announce more details on the UK's travel roadmap this week.

New Zealand/Australia 'travel bubble'

New Zealand, meanwhile, announced on Tuesday that it will allow quarantine-free travel with Australia from 19 April.

Both countries have been successful in eliminating the virus and officials say they believe the risk of transmitting it through travel is low.

The countries plan a “travel bubble” to help the struggling tourism sector, ahead of New Zealand’s ski season.

“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world-leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand will continue to be cautious about other countries, and is only considering travel bubbles with the Cook Islands and Niue which have strong ties to New Zealand.

(with wires)