Illegal to eat ice cream on a cone? Bring your own cutlery to barbecues; No more locally-sourced olive oil in bottles, just plastic pouches: Europe’s ‘baffling’ COVID-19 regulations

social distancing
Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP

Europe is lifting its lockdowns, but the new rules to battle the coronavirus are baffling Europeans as the continent goes into a familiar mode: regulatory overdrive.

Central governments, local authorities and health-and-safety regulators can all have their say, and do so often. The result is a patchwork of ever-changing rules that vary from country to country, from city to city, and sometimes even between neighborhoods.

Wearing face masks is mandatory in some districts of Brussels, but not in others. You can be fined at one end of the street for not wearing a mask while people at the opposite end saunter mask-free.

Regulators are weighing in where sunbathers can lounge. They’re determining whether people can buy ice-cream cones. But no issue has stirred more regulations than whom Europeans are permitted to socialize with.


In the U.K., different households are allowed to mix, but only in parks or private gardens. Authorities in Scotland advise people who have to pass through a friend’s house to reach the garden not to touch anything or use the toilet, and to bring their own cutlery to a barbecue.

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In Lerici, some gelato sellers were reprimanded by a central government regional representative office for offering cones instead of only paper cups.

“I don’t see why,” said [mayor Leonardo] Paoletti. As far as he is concerned, ice cream can be served in cones.


“At this point, nothing makes sense to me anymore,” he said.

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