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Participants in a demonstration against the coronavirus measures walk past a counter-demonstration in Lower Saxony, Osnabrück, Germany, on Dec. 18. Photo: Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Tighter COVID-19 restrictions are returning in countries across Europe as case counts rise from the quickly spreading and highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Threat level: Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's Europe chief, said Tuesday that governments should prepare for "a significant surge" in COVID-19 cases, as Germany and Portugal became the latest countries to announce new measures.

The big picture: Several European countries announced plans to impose further pandemic measures after Christmas, but Sweden will from Wednesday require bars and restaurants to only serve seated guests, and Finland's bars and restaurants will shut at the earlier time of 10pm from Christmas Eve, per the BBC.

Germany will from Dec. 28 limit private gatherings to 10 people, shut nightclubs and require soccer matches to be played behind closed doors, DW.com reports.

Portugal will from Dec. 26 through at least Jan. 9 require bars and nightclubs to remain closed and the country will limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people per group on New Year’s Eve, the Guardian notes.

The Netherlands announced last Saturday a nationwide lockdown effective on Sunday, and all nonessential stores, bars and restaurants will be closed until Jan. 14, AP reports.

France and Austria tightened travel restrictions, while Paris canceled its New Year's Eve firework celebration, per AP.

In Denmark, theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums have all closed.

Ireland set an 8pm local time curfew on pubs and bars.

United Kingdom residents are required to wear masks indoors and show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to attend a nightclub or large event.

"Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all announced curbs on social mixing," the BBC reports.

Go deeper: The UK's Omicron warning for America

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details on measures in the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Minneapolis and St. Paul to require vaccine or test for indoor dining

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

New vaccine-or-test requirements for indoor dining and drinking in Minneapolis and St. Paul take effect Wednesday.

The big picture: A growing number of major cities, including Boston, Chicago and New York, have instituted similar requirements in an effort to protect public health.

Yes, but: Questions about enforcement, logistics and effectiveness of the temporary measures here remain.

Updated 5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

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