Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces new confinement in England on October 31, 2020.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces new confinement in England on October 31, 2020 (ALBERTO PEZZALI / POOL / AFP)

France is not the only country in Europe to experience lockdown. Whether or not so-called non-essential businesses may be closed, schools closed and a curfew put in place, the rules are not the same on the old continent depending on the country. Direction Belgium, England and Austria, three countries where containment has just been put in place or will be in the coming days.

In Belgium, bookstores remain open

Our Belgian neighbor entered new confinement on Monday. All businesses classified as non-essential have lowered their curtains. But unlike France, after a final arbitration this weekend, the government of Alexander De Croo decided that access to books was a necessity, in order to preserve “the mental health of Belgians” : “There is nothing better than opening a book to get away from the terrible situation we are in!”, explained Deputy Prime Minister Georges Gilkinet. “We leave the DIY stores open, leave open the odds and ends of culture and the brain”, commented another member of the government.

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During the first confinement after a few days of boondoggles and a different reading of the announcements according to the regions, only the booksellers who sold newspapers had been able to remain open. The decision this time around was the subject of political consensus within the coalition that governs the country. “Belgium was not going to give Amazon a huge gift again!”, comments the newspaper The evening. While book and comic book professionals, very active in the country, say they are relieved. The end of the year is obviously a key moment in terms of album releases and sales.

Other small businesses remain open in Belgium, notably haberdashery and stationery shops as well as garden centers. But as in France, to avoid any unfair competition with closed stores, the clothing or toy departments of supermarkets are condemned. Containment has been decided for six weeks and begins at the same time as the Belgian All Saints’ Day holidays. A vacation that usually only lasts a week, but has been extended. The students will not be returning to class for another 15 days, on November 16.

Non-essential businesses are closed in England but no certification is required

The re-containment in England will begin on Thursday for a period of one month. A turnaround by Boris Johnson, who until now was rather opposed to it. Since September, his scientific advisers hammered out the same recommendations: put in place a short confinement, of a few weeks to lower the figures and avoid saturation of hospitals. Boris Johnson, for his part, resisted, wanted to preserve the economy and implemented only local measures, depending on the number of cases by region. Its scientific advisers now foresee an alarming situation. According to them, with the onset of winter, the second wave could be twice as deadly as the first. So like most of his European neighbors, it is therefore impossible for the Prime Minister to escape this re-containment.

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It will be very similar to that of France, Boris Johnson spoke on Saturday night in Downing Street to announce it and give the details: “From Thursday until the beginning of December, you will have to stay at home. You can only go out for specific reasons.” Non-essential businesses will be closed. Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be able to serve take out food. Teleworking will be re-generalized but schools will remain open. Some differences all the same with confinement in France. In England, there is no need for a certificate to travel and there is no limit in the duration of the trip or the distance traveled. In other words, you have the right to walk or go to the park for hours. The end of confinement is scheduled for December 2.

Hairdressers can remain open in Austria

The “second lockdown”, in the words of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, comes into effect in Austria on the night of Monday to Tuesday at midnight and for the entire month of November. From Tuesday therefore, bars and restaurants but also cultural and sports institutions will have to close. The hotels will no longer be able to accommodate tourists, only business customers. On the other hand, shops and hairdressers can remain open, as can schools that cater for students up to the age of 14. For others, distance education will be the rule. Finally, Austrians will not be able to leave their homes between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. except for certain exceptional reasons, for example professional reasons.

The Austrian government hoped to avoid this re-containment. He had gradually put in place various measures but the increase in the number of cases has accelerated in recent weeks, several times exceeding the mark of 5,000 daily infections, when this figure was only 1,000 at the beginning of October. The situation is now alarming according to Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober: “If we don’t break this trend, we expect there will be big issues in the second half of November with our critical care capabilities.” And as a result of this deteriorating health situation, polls show that public support for the government is waning for the management of this crisis.

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