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Coronavirus: Which European countries are under lockdown, and for how long?

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French gendarmes control a vehicle in Ustaritz, southwestern France, Thursday, March 19, 2020.
French gendarmes control a vehicle in Ustaritz, southwestern France, Thursday, March 19, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Bob Edme
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Most European countries have imposed lockdowns to various degrees to combat the spread of the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus.

The list that began with Italy on March 8 has grown as more countries acted to confine people to their homes for all but essential reasons.

Other nations across the continent have also imposed drastic measures to restrict public gatherings and freedom of movement, while stopping short of legal confinement.

In most cases lockdowns involve a ban on people going out -- apart from travelling to and from work unless this can't be done from home, buying essential supplies of food and medicine, helping others in need, and getting some brief exercise.

Europe became the epicentre after the disease spread from China and other countries in Asia, with Italy and Spain particularly badly affected. Western European countries have reported more deaths than elsewhere, and more confirmed cases of the virus with the exception of the United States.

However early April has brought hope that a peak may be being reached, as infection rates slowed in countries where lockdowns had been put in place.

Here is a look at measures implemented in a selection of European countries.

Austria

Austria has announced a path towards the partial lifting of its lockdown, three weeks after the restrictive measures were put in place.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on April 6 that some shops would reopen after Easter, at the beginning of a long, phased return to normal life.

Small shops and garden centres would be the first to be allowed to open doors to customers from April 14, he said.

It was hoped that all other shops, and hairdressing salons, would be able to follow suit on May 1 -- but restaurants and hotels would remain closed until at least mid-May. Events would remain banned until the end of June, the chancellor said.

"We have acted more quickly and more drastically" than other countries and "have prevented the worst", Kurz said. But he warned that an "emergency brake" could be imposed if coronavirus cases started risking again.

Belgium

Belgium's nationwide self-isolation policy kicked in on March 18 and has now been prolonged until April 19. Residents must stay at home unless they need to go to work, supermarkets, health facilities or visit people in need. They are also allowed to step out for physical activity.

"Authorities rely on the sense of duty of each Belgian and the respect towards these decisions taken to protect them, their relatives and loved ones. Only the personal commitment of each and everyone will allow these measures to have a real impact on the situation," the government said.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has imposed a nationwide lockdown. All public events are banned and schools have been closed.

However the government is considering allowing small stores to open again after Easter. At the same time the interior minister is proposing to scrap a ban on Czechs travelling abroad, from April 14.

Denmark

Denmark has imposed no national lockdown, but schools, restaurants and many shops have closed.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen declared an extension to coronavirus restrictions, until April 13 -- but later announced a gradual lifting of restrictions would begin after Easter.

Until then, gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned, public sector workers in non-critical posts have been told to stay home, while public venues have been closed.

France

The lockdown in France was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron on March 17 for an initial period of 15 days. It was later extended to April 15.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on March 23 announced further restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus, including closing open fresh food markets.

In addition to closing the markets, Philippe said people would only be able to go out near their houses and for one hour, once a day and only for essential trips such as keeping fit, buying food or going to the doctor.

French people are being asked to justify their movements with a form they must present to authorities. Failure to do so or if they're deemed further away from home than strictly necessary can result in a fine of €135 -- rising to €1,500 or even €3,700 and even a prison term for repeat offenders.

More than 4,000 such fines were dished out on the first day of verbalisation, according to the interior minister.

The national health advisory board, meanwhile, has advocated for the lockdown to be extended by another four weeks.

Germany

Berlin has so far eschewed a federal lockdown. It has warned that curfews could otherwise be imposed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on March 22 that all gatherings of more than two people would be banned in Germany "for at least two weeks" to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

German citizens are asked to stand 1.5 metres apart while restaurants and hairdressing salons will be closed, she said.

Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also announced earlier that 2,300 reservists and 900 "health reservists" had been mobilised.

But Bavaria became the first of the country's 16 states to introduce a lockdown on Friday with restrictions similar to the ones introduced in Belgium and France, including the closure of all restaurants and bars except those offering delivery services.

Greece

The Greek government introduced a lockdown across the country on March 23.

Exemptions include going to work, visiting the doctor, shopping for groceries and medicines, going out for exercise, and walking the dog.

Failure to comply comes with a fine of €150.

Hungary

Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered a 15-day lockdown on March 27 to kick in the following day.

Hungarians will only be allowed out to exercises or for essential trips such as buying medicine or food with food stores and pharmacies restricted to those over the age of 65 in the morning.

Ireland

Ireland became one of the latest countries to impose a major shutdown on Tuesday March 24.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced "unprecedented actions" to curb the spread of the virus. Non-essential shops are being closed, along with public venues both indoors and outdoors, hotels, cafes and restaurants.

Social distancing is being strongly encouraged, with people urged to avoid all non-essential visits.

Italy

Italy was the first EU member state to introduce lockdowns. Northern regions were the first to be concerned by confinement measures which were extended across the country.

Schools, universities and non-essential businesses are closed. Supermarkets and banks remain open, along with pharmacies and post offices. Gatherings and events are banned.

As in France, people must fill out a form if they leave their homes, giving a valid reason. Travelling around the country is banned for non-urgent reasons.

The lockdown is expected to be extended beyond Easter, perhaps for a considerable time.

Spain

The worst affected country in Europe after Italy, Spain moved to drastically restrict people's movement as casualty numbers began to soar.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a state of emergency on March 14, confining people to their homes other than for specific reasons.

These are essential shopping, travelling to and from work, medical needs, to visit those in need, or to get money. People are allowed to walk dogs, but not go out running. Fines for offenders start at €100 and can go much higher.

Sweden

Sweden has been singled out for not imposing a full lockdown in the way many other European countries have done.

People can move freely, schools, bars and restaurants remain open, and outdoor activities are allowed. However there are some restrictions on international travel.

But gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and some social distancing measures have been implemented.

Switzerland

The Swiss government issued a fresh call on March 24 for people to remain at home. It followed a move last Friday to ban gatherings of more than five people, and force people in any group to keep two metres apart. Anyone flouting the measures can be fined.

The measures will remain in place until April 19. People are strongly advised to stay at home other than for essential reasons similar to those in some other European countries. Other restrictions have also been brought in.

However, the government prefers not to talk of "confinement". The interior minister has criticised tough measures taken in neighbouring Italy and France as a "political spectacle".

Swiss health authorities estimated the number of dead from coronavirus at 86 on March 24, with more than 8,800 infections. The figures are slightly below estimates from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center in the US.

United Kingdom

Boris Johnson announced a major clampdown on movement on March 23. People can only leave home for "very limited purposes", namely essential shopping and travelling to work if "absolutely necessary", for medical needs or helping others in need, or to take exercise.

Most shops and public venues have been closed, and gatherings of more than two people are banned, other than with those they live with.

The measures will be in place for at least three weeks, the British prime minister said. At the end of last week he announced that cafés, pubs and restaurants had to close to try to offset the spread of COVID-19.

But repeated messages urging people to stay at home have until now fallen on deaf ears in many cases.

Authorities have also been in debate over enforcement amid concerns that the police may not have the means to control freedom of movement effectively.

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