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Countries around the world have some unusual rules to combat coronavirus

3rd COVID wave hits Europe amid AstraZeneca uncertainty
3rd COVID wave grips Europe amid AstraZeneca vaccine uncertainty 01:39

As COVID-19 vaccination efforts pick up speed, many states across the U.S. are easing or dropping restrictions. But that's not the case in many other countries around the world. In fact, some have rules that are far more stringent than anything ever imposed in the U.S. 

From 6 p.m. curfews, to "no talking" rules, to men and women being allowed outside only on alternating days, coronavirus restrictions around the world are constantly evolving — some in unusual ways.

France – Curfew and movement restrictions

France has been one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, with over 4 million cases and more than 91,000 deaths as of March 19. 

The Paris area is under a new lockdown to combat a surge of cases. Residents can go outside for exercise but only within 10 km (6 miles) of their homes. People are not allowed to travel to other parts of the country without proof of a valid reason, such as a death in the family, or business that cannot be done remotely.

Cafes, restaurants, museums, theaters and ski resorts have been closed across France since October 30, with no date set for reopening. A nationwide curfew has kept people home from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. every night since mid-January. 

But there is help for businesses that have been forced to close. They can receive up to $12,000 a month, or compensation equal to 20% of their revenues from 2019. 

Piles of chairs outside a closed cafe in the French riviera city of Nice. VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images

Masks are required on public transportation, and on top of that, France's National Academy of Medicine has urged people to keep quiet — no talking, no phone calls — to reduce the spread of germs on public transit and whenever social distancing is not possible. Officials specified that this is "not an obligation" but a "recommendation."

During France's first lockdown in March 2020, the rules were even more stringent. People had to download and fill out a form each time they needed to leave the house. Police would check the forms to make sure the person had a legitimate reason to be outside, and issued fines up to $150 for violations. At that time, people could only exercise within a 2 km radius (about 1.2 miles) of their homes and recreational cycling was banned.

Abu Dhabi, UAE – Tracking wristbands

Since September 2020, most passengers arriving in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, are required to wear a tracking wristband during the mandatory 10-day home quarantine. All travelers also have to undergo thermal screening and COVID-19 testing at the airport.

"Self-isolation must take place at home and you will be required to wear a medically approved wristband for the duration. The wristband will be provided by the authorities at Abu Dhabi Airport after you clear immigration," Etihad Airways said in the guidelines posted on its website.  

Those under the age of 18, over 60, suffering from a chronic disease or holding a diplomatic passport are exempt from having to wear the wristband.

Singapore – Tracking devices and hotel quarantine

At the start of the pandemic, Singapore started requiring people to carry a special digital device or use an app to help authorities track any contacts with coronavirus cases. It is mandatory for entering shopping malls and public places.

Authorities initially said the contact tracing system's data was encrypted, stored locally, and only used if individuals tested positive for COVID-19. But last month, officials said the data had been used in a criminal investigation, raising questions over privacy and surveillance.

Additionally, travelers entering Singapore from most countries are required to serve a 14-day quarantine at a government-designated facility — at the traveler's expense.

The quarantine is strictly monitored by the government and the facilities are randomly assigned. One woman said she spent her entire quarantine in a 5-star hotel, while others recounted their experience holed up in rooms without windows and filled with cockroaches.

Last month, a Singapore court sentenced a British man to two weeks in jail after he sneaked out of his hotel room to meet his then fiancée during quarantine. He was also fined $752.56 for leaving his room three times, according to Reuters. 

Similar quarantine requirements are also in place for most visitors traveling to Kuwait, Hong Kong and Australia. 

Mexico – Junk food crackdown

A number of states in Mexico took steps to ban the sale and marketing of junk food and sugary drinks to minors in September, out of concern that health conditions such as diabetes and obesity were putting people at higher risk from the coronavirus. The law applies to stores and school vending machines.

Many grocery stores, especially those in Mexico City, have instituted rules allowing only one family member at a time into their stores to reduce crowding and potential exposure to the virus. 

More than 190,000 Mexicans have died from COVID-19, the world's third-highest reported death toll. On Thursday, Mexico announced it is restricting non-essential travel at land ports of entry.

Spain – Rules on gathering, smoking, speaking

With among the highest numbers of cases and deaths in Europe, Spain imposed one of the continent's strictest lockdowns. The country reopened to visitors over the summer, but has since entered a state of emergency that is due to run until May. 

Restrictions vary widely by region, but gatherings of over six people are banned across Spain and a national nightly curfew from 10 or 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., depending on the region, is currently in place.

Spain closed nightclubs and also banned smoking in outdoor public spaces where people can't maintain social distancing of at least six feet. The Spanish health ministry said it was concerned that smokers could transfer the virus to other people in droplets exhaled with smoke.

Catalonia's regional government asked in November that all public transport riders refrain from speaking, eating and drinking to prevent further spreading the virus, according to local news media.

Virus Outbreak Spain
A resident walks with a dog on an empty street after curfew in Barcelona on Oct. 25, 2020. Spain imposed the curfew to stem a worsening COVID-19 outbreak.  Emilio Morenatti / AP

The regional government of Galicia, in northwestern Spain, announced that it has approved fines, ranging from about $1,100 up to $71,000, for people who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19, if their refusal is deemed to result in "a very serious risk or harm for the health of the population." But the law is facing legal challenges and may not go into effect. 

Germany – Special masks required

Germany has recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 infections since January and is extending its current lockdown until March 28. It is easing some restrictions to allow nonessential stores and other businesses to reopen only in areas with relatively low infection rates. 

In many places, a maximum of five people from no more than two households are allowed to gather in a home, but children under the age of 14 are not included in that count. Most stores have been closed since December nationwide and restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment venues have been closed since November. Hotels are allowed to accommodate business travelers only

Germany requires people to wear surgical masks or higher-filtration N95 or FFP-2 masks rather than simple cloth face coverings in stores, in the workplace and on public transit in hopes of controlling faster-spreading strains of the virus.

Panama – Alternating men's and women's days

At the beginning of the pandemic, Panama announced one of the most aggressive measures in Latin America: Locals could only go out on alternate days according to their sex, as stated on their national identification cards. 

Women could only leave their homes to buy necessities on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while men could go on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Everyone had to stay home on Sundays. Even on their designated days, both men and women only had two hours to do their grocery shopping. 

This measure was eliminated in February.

South Africa – Ban on liquor sales and cigarettes

South Africa was home to one of the world's most stringent lockdowns. At the start of the pandemic, South Africa introduced a total ban on alcohol sales, which lasted until June 1. The ban was brought back in July but reversed a second time a month later. A third ban was put in place in December, which has now been lifted.

"Reckless behavior due to alcohol intoxication has contributed to increased transmission. Alcohol-related accidents and violence are putting pressure on our hospital emergency units," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a nationwide address in July. 

South Africa also imposed an unprecedented ban on cigarette sales, to help prevent respiratory problems associated with COVID-19. The ban lasted for over three months.  

In March 2020, South Africa sealed its borders, barring international visitors from coming into the country and leaving many South Africans stranded abroad. The travel ban was lifted in October, but following a "massive increase" in COVID-19 cases driven by a highly contagious variant discovered there last year, Ramaphosa announced in January that 20 land borders would close until February 15.

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