Tuesday, January 18

Europe promotes restrictions and third doses to contain omicron on Christmas days

Europe continues to impose restrictions, mainly for the unvaccinated, in the face of the increase in infections and the expansion of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, while trying to speed up immunization and booster doses. Several European leaders have already warned of the seriousness of the situation in the face of a mutation of the virus that, they have pointed out from various regions, is highly contagious and cannot be considered a milder version of what has been known so far, something on which some studies agree . This same Saturday, the Netherlands has returned to strict confinement at Christmas for the omicron variant, after an emergency meeting of the Dutch Executive.

Two doses or a previous infection barely prevents infection with omicron, according to data from the United Kingdom

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The Government of the Netherlands has followed the recommendations of its team of experts, which opted to go from the current night confinement to a hard one, in which, from this Sunday until January 14, only staple stores will remain open, pharmacies and gas stations and the minimum services of some essential jobs. This measure is adopted when the country marks an incidence of 1,470 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, it also includes the closure of schools.

“We are still fighting against the delta variant, but we know that the omicron threatens us” because “the number of infections multiplies” up to “two in two days,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Thursday. A recent study by Imperial College London estimates that the risk of reinfection with omicron is 5.4 times higher than with delta.

The European countries that have been implementing new measures in recent days have done so mainly on four fronts. One: increasing restrictions, mainly for the unvaccinated, through new sanctions or limiting their access to certain spaces. Two: promoting the vaccination campaign, especially with booster doses. Three: limiting mass gatherings or large influxes of people in the face of Christmas celebrations. And four: tightening the requirements for travelers who, in some cases, must present negative PCR or rapid tests even if they have a COVID certificate.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

France announced this Friday that it will ban street parties for New Year’s Eve and asked citizens to reduce mass gatherings and gatherings as much as possible. “The fewer we are, the less risks we will run,” warned Prime Minister Jean Castex. In addition, he warned that although the Executive had given time to people who had doubts about vaccination, some six million throughout the country, this situation is “no longer admissible.” For this reason, at the beginning of January they will bring to Parliament a bill so that the health certificate is only valid for those who are vaccinated, excluding those who present negative tests and tightening the control and fines against those who comment on fraud with them.

For those already vaccinated, France has reduced the waiting time between the second and third doses, from five to four months. The goal is to increase the efficacy against the most severe cases from 60% to 90%. In addition, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, has advanced this Saturday that he will force health workers and firefighters to inject this reinforcement to avoid outbreaks in hospitals, which would reduce the capacity for care. In that sense, the Executive will compensate the effort of the health personnel, foreseen with the arrival of omicron, paying double for their overtime from this Monday.

“The most important threat”

The UK Government was one of the first to react to the appearance of the omicron variant in November. This week has registered the highest number of infections in one day, about 80,000, since the start of the pandemic. “Ómicron is probably the most important threat” since then, the director of the Health Security Agency, Susan Hopkins, has warned, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson recalled that it is not “a milder version” of the virus.

For this reason, the Executive has guaranteed a booster dose for the entire adult population before the end of the year. A measure that adds to the mandatory nature of teleworking, whenever possible, of the COVID certificate to access pubs or shows or the use of masks in public places, included in its ‘plan b’. For their part, scientific advisers favor more restrictions in England to limit social contacts to members of three different households or the closure of discos, as has already been done in other British regions. “If the objective is to reduce infection levels and prevent hospitalizations (…) it would be necessary to implement more doubtful measures,” they warn in a report.

The Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, has asked Parliament to close all cultural and leisure activities, given the increase in infections and new hospitalizations and the advance of the omicron variant, “particularly contagious” and to which one fifth of the 11,194 cases detected in the country in the last 24 hours. Although Frederiksen defended that there will not be a generalized closure of public life, he asked citizens to limit social contacts and recommended that restaurants close at 23 hours.

92 million booster doses in Germany

Germany on Friday added France and Denmark to its list of high-risk countries for COVID. This means that, from this same Sunday, travelers from these countries, which also include Norway, Andorra and Lebanon, must be quarantined if they are not vaccinated. In addition, in general, it has prohibited the entry of unvaccinated people into non-essential shops and stores. The executive of Olaf Scholz has accelerated the purchase of 92 million additional doses of BioNTech vaccine, to face the winter campaign in the face of the “enormous challenge” that omicron will pose for hospitals.

Switzerland has limited private Christmas gatherings to only ten people if one of them is not vaccinated or has had the disease, given a worrying increase in the epidemiological situation, which is beginning to be noticed in hospital occupation, with “mainly unvaccinated people from middle and old age “. The Swiss country, with a low vaccination rate of 66%, has decreed teleworking and has also announced that only immunized people will be able to access hotels, sports, cultural and leisure venues as of Monday.

In Finland it is already mandatory, from this Thursday, to present a negative PCR to enter the country from the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and Nigeria and from next Tuesday it will be for all travelers from outside the Schengen zone. In addition, restrictions on hospitality have been extended in many regions, including Lapland, including the sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars after 5 p.m., if they do not require a COVID certificate on entry.

This Friday, Greece published the requirement to present a negative PCR or a rapid test carried out 72 and 24 hours, respectively, before entering the country for all travelers, regardless of whether they have the certificate and their vaccination status, both of the European Union and the Schengen area. This measure was already applied in Italy and Portugal.

Austria, whose trend is positive and where infections have dropped a lot compared to the last week, is going against the surrounding countries. In this case, it will relax the confinement for the unvaccinated, who currently can only leave home to go to work, make essential purchases, and walk or exercise, but who will be able to meet at Christmas and New Year’s Eve with up to ten people. However, as of February they face fines of up to 3,600 euros if they choose to continue without being vaccinated.