European nations are reimposing some COVID-19 measures in a bid to curb rising case numbers of the highly infectious Delta variant. Spain has entered its fifth wave of the pandemic, prompting a reintroduction of curfews in tourist hotspots; Greece and the Netherlands are reimposing curbs on hospitality; and in France, where infections are surging, officials are making it compulsory for people to be vaccinated or test negative to enter cultural venues, restaurants and bars.

The rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 across Europe has led to an increase in coronavirus cases among unvaccinated people. In just a few weeks, this spike in infections has reversed the downward trend most European countries had been reporting since the end of spring, threatening to undo recent progress in the fight against the virus.

In an attempt to gain control of the spread, and to encourage vaccine uptake which has slowed down in France in recent weeks, the government has mandated the use of a health pass for entry to any cultural or leisure venue with a capacity for 50 people. From August 1, that will be extended to bars, restaurants, cafes, shopping centers and to board domestic flights or long-distance trains. The health shows that a person has been fully vaccinated, is recovered or has recently tested negative for the virus, and it is required of residents and tourists.

Read more: France's new health pass will be essential for your trip - here's how to get it

The French government has also tightened border restrictions for unvaccinated travelers and those coming from high-risk countries, which now includes the UK according to France's classification system.

On Twitter, France’s minister for European affairs Clément Beaune said that travelers coming from the UK who are not fully vaccinated can only enter France for essential travel and must present a negative COVID-19 test result within 24 hours of travel. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers coming from Spain and Portugal, which are on France and the EU's green list for travel, must present a negative test taken within 24 hours of departure instead of the previous 72-hour timeframe, but they are still free to enter France for non-essential reasons.

Meanwhile in Spain, as virus continues to gather pace again — particularly among young and unvaccinated people — the country is facing a fifth wave of the pandemic. In Catalonia, all businesses and activities have been ordered to close at 12.30am and the local government has capped social gatherings to 10 people. Social gatherings are now limited to 10 people in Valencia too, and more than 30 towns within the region are under a night curfew. Spanish newspaper, El País reports that the Canary Islands could also impose a night curfew, just as tourists have returned to the vacation hotspot.

Diners on outdoor terraces in Athens
Greece has reported COVID-19 increases after weeks of decline, blaming the more contagious Delta variant ©X07402/AFP/Getty Images

Only people who are vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19 will be allowed in bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and other closed spaces in Greece, Reuters reports. The rules were introduced on July 15 and apply nationwide, including the Greek islands. On the party island of Mykonos, the government has imposed additional measures such as banning music in cafes, restaurants, bars and beach clubs, and introducing a nighttime curfew.

In Portugal, the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto have introduced a night curfew and limited restaurants' seating capacity and opening hours.

And in the Netherlands, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said his government had made a mistake in lifting so many measures so soon, as infections soar again. "A judgement error was made. What we thought we could allow, we could actually not," Mr Rutte said in The Hague.

"We are upset about it and we apologise," he told reporters.

In a statement, the government "the coronavirus infection rate in the Netherlands has increased much faster than expected since society reopened almost completely on June 26. Most infections have occurred in nightlife settings and parties with high numbers of people."

As a result, restaurants and bars are back to introducing assigned social seating to patrons and will close from midnight until 6am. Discos and nightclubs are closed again, and the country's coronavirus entry pass scheme will now require that the holder has tested negative 24 hours before entering an event, sporting game or cultural venue.

As some European countries reintroduce measures, England dropped all COVID-19 restrictions on July 19 including the legal requirement to wear face masks in public, despite the British Medical Association's (BMA) call for continued face mask use, and the requirement for people to socially distance.

If you're traveling to Europe this year, always check the latest measures before planning any trips.

This article was first published on July 13 and updated on July 21, 2021.

You might also like:
As cruising restarts in the Caribbean, the pandemic ensures it's not all smooth sailing
Plan to travel soon? Here's what you need to know about US passport renewal delays
As England drops COVID-19 restrictions, here's what it means for travel

This article was first published July 2021 and updated July 2021

Buy Where to go When Europe

With more than 300 suggestions for destinations across Europe and the best time of year to experience them, this book is the ultimate trip planner for every month of the year.

Buy Where to go When Europe

Explore related stories