The biggest countries in Europe are weighing more on the brakes to fight an increase in Covid-19 infections, while Presidential Chief Medical Advisor Joe Biden has said the prospect of further lockdowns in the United States is unlikely, although the omicron variant has now reached almost all states.
From a new lockdown in the Netherlands to travel restrictions targeted by several countries in the UK, Europe faces a critical week of decisions that could disrupt the Christmas and New Years holidays. Biden plans to warn the nation on Tuesday of the dangers of not being vaccinated.
The spread of the highly transmissible omicron strain risks shattering populations already weary of the restrictions. It also comes at a time when some countries, like Germany and Austria, had barely mastered their last waves.
European countries have taken a varied approach to counter the winter wave of Covid, but most have stressed the importance of speeding up vaccination and booster campaigns. Much of their effort is aimed at not repeating the experience of the UK, where the total number of Covid infections rose by around 50% in one week to a record 93,000 on Friday.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the federal government to increase the city’s supply of tests and treatments amid an outbreak of infections. New York State broke a record for new infections for the third day in a row.
The debate continues to rage over whether the omicron variant produces milder disease than previous strains.
Here are the actions countries have taken or are discussing:
An effective US shutdown is probably unnecessary as Covid is on the rise again, although hospitals are being tested by the expected rush of omicron cases, according to Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
With the colder weather and the travel and holiday gatherings, the pressures on the medical system will be particularly acute in areas of the country where immunization levels are low, Fauci told “State of the Union”. CNN. He urged the public to get vaccines and boosters, noting that around 50 million people are eligible to get vaccinated and have not done so.
In his address to the people on Tuesday, President Biden will announce new measures to help communities in need of help, while issuing a stern warning of what winter will be like for Americans who choose to remain unvaccinated, according to a White House official. .
Health Minister Sajid Javid on Sunday refused to rule out the restrictions before Christmas, but said any new measures would have to be voted on by parliament. This would require members to be recalled during the holidays. Prime Minister Boris Johnson would likely face yet another rebellion in his ranks after 100 of his Tory allies voted last week against measures much softer than the tougher restrictions currently under consideration.
British advisers have told the government more measures are needed within days to protect the healthcare system.
A key minister, Lord David Frost, resigned over the weekend and warned Johnson in his resignation letter “not to be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere”.
“There are no guarantees in this pandemic,” Javid said when asked if he would rule out a so-called circuit breaker lockout. “At this point we just need to keep everything under control. “
London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Saturday declared a “major incident” due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant across the city, giving him more powers to fight the virus and seek government support. With so many people now staying at home, the country has entered what some are calling a ‘stealth lockdown’ that has left retail, hospitality and travel in shock.
The Dutch have already taken their step: the nation returned to a strict lockdown on Sunday. This means that schools and non-essential stores are closed and fewer visitors will be allowed into households. The moves come as the government has said the rise of the omicron will likely overwhelm its healthcare system in January. The new restrictions will remain in place at least until January 14.
It’s a scenario Germany is trying to avoid, as its healthcare system continues to grapple with a wave of the virus that peaked in late November. Hospital demand is not expected to drop much for a month or more. The country has joined with Cyprus and France in imposing stricter rules on British travelers, who will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, upsetting their vacation plans. France temporarily barred entry to many Britons last week, and Cyprus will force visitors from the UK aged 12 or older, regardless of their vaccination status, to self-isolate. The new German government is also considering a vaccination mandate.
In addition to banning arrivals to the UK, France is curbing outdoor celebrations on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to limit the spread and protect its hospitals. The government is also stepping up pressure on people to get vaccinated, and from January only those with immunity will be able to get a “health pass” that gives access to bars, restaurants, medical facilities and cultural venues.
Spain will convene an online emergency meeting on Wednesday to analyze the evolution of the pandemic and discuss the adoption of new measures. Some regions already require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars, but have refrained from more aggressive measures that could dampen an economy heavily dependent on services and tourism.
The Italian government will also hold an emergency meeting on Thursday and could consider options such as requiring masks outside, shortening the validity of vaccine certificates and possibly requiring those vaccinated as well as those who are vaccinated. unvaccinated to take Covid tests to access major events, according to people familiar with the subject.
Lagging behind vaccines, with less than 68% of vaccines fully vaccinated, Switzerland will exclude the unvaccinated from much of public life, such as restaurants, museums and gymnasiums. The Swiss government has also reintroduced a requirement to work from home. The measures are in place until January 24.
Also from this week, Ireland will demand the closure of bars, restaurants, cinemas and sports venues by 8 p.m. Omicron is already the dominant strain in the country, with public health advisers saying it accounts for more than half of new cases.
Austria was stranded when omicron struck, after a low vaccination rate fueled a surge in delta cases that flooded the country’s health system. The general lockdown was lifted earlier this month in time for the holidays. The unvaccinated have also been offered a break, but after the New Year they will again only be allowed to leave their homes to go to work, essential groceries or exercise. The country has also made vaccines compulsory from February. Daily cases in Austria have fallen by more than 75% from their peak and vaccinations have risen steadily over the past month.
The Polish government has ordered schools to switch to distance learning until January 9 and has tightened capacity limits in public spaces such as restaurants, hotels and cinemas. Limits have been reduced to 30% of capacity from 50% previously. The government closed discos and nightclubs from December 15. The health ministry also plans to make vaccines mandatory for medical staff, uniformed services and teachers from March 1. more than 500 per day.
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This story was posted from an agency feed with no text editing. Only the title has been changed.