European nations issue warnings amid fears of Christmas Covid surge
Madrid Desk, Dec 21 (EFE).- European nations are enforcing fresh restrictions and issuing warnings to curb an expected surge of Covid-19 cases fueled by social gatherings and travel during the Christmas holiday season.
The World Health Organization issued a stark warning that increased social mixing over the festive period would lead to a jump in cases, hospitalizations and deaths and encouraged the public to delay or postpone social events.
“An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Monday. “It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later, than to celebrate now and grieve later.”
He said there was “consistent” evidence that Omicron was spreading faster than the previously dominant Delta variant of coronavirus, adding that in order to end the pandemic in 2022, “we must end inequity, by ensuring 70% of the population of every country is vaccinated by the middle of next year.”
The United Kingdom is currently at the epicenter of Europe’s Covid-19 outbreak with around 90,000 cases reported each day, record levels since the beginning of the pandemic. Its skyrocketing infection rate has prompted other European nations like France and Germany to slap new travel restrictions on those coming from Britain.
The UK government has so far resisted calls from scientists to implement more stringent public health measures in the country before Christmas, saying the situation would remain under constant review, but has urged the public to observe maximum caution during the festive period.
French authorities on Tuesday echoed calls for the general public to reduce their social contact to a minimum over the holiday period. Speaking to France 2 radio, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said he could not rule out, “in principle,” a lockdown akin to the one issued in the Netherlands. Health authorities reported 73,000 new infections in the last 24 hours, of which 20% were Omicron cases.
German’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control recommended an immediate and maximum reduction of social contacts to avoid a skyrocketing of cases over Christmas.
The government announced tougher restrictions just after Christmas that will limit social gatherings to 10, for those who are vaccinated, and to immediate family members for the unvaccinated, chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed in a meeting with regional leaders. Soccer games will also be closed to the public.
Portugal on Tuesday said it was reimposing restrictions it had planned to introduce in January over fears of Omicron including requiring showing a negative test to enter restaurants, mandatory work from home and the closure of night clubs and bars from December 25.
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez is to hold a similar meeting with regional leaders on Wednesday to discuss ways to tackle a sixth wave of Covid-19 in the country, which has prompted devolved authorities in Catalonia to request new restrictions on nightlife and powers to reimplement a curfew between 1am and 6am in areas where infection rates surpass 250 per 100,000.
Spain’s cumulative infection rate has shot up to 609 cases per 100,000 people as of Monday compared to 381 last week.
Italian authorities in Lazio, home of the capital Rome, announced obligatory face mask use in public areas from December 23, the date the national government will announce whether it plans to expand the same measure across the country depending on the evolution of the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile in Romania, around four thousand ultra-nationalists took to protest on Tuesday against plans to introduce a Covid health pass in some workplaces.
The EU member ranks among the least vaccinated in the bloc with around 40% fully jabbed. Only Bulgaria ranks worse in the EU. EFE