New Year celebrations canceled in France as England, NL mull tougher rules

Madrid Desk, Dec 18 (EFE).- Several European countries are poised to tighten coronavirus restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant which is threatening to spoil Christmas and New Year’s celebrations across the continent.

The French government announced Friday night it would ban parties on New Year’s Eve as prime minister Jean Castex urged the country to avoid gatherings.

He added that vaccination remains the most effective weapon in the fight against the variant, which will become dominant in France by early next year.

To deal with the expected rise in Omicron-driven cases, the French government will implement a two-pronged strategy: targeting unvaccinated people with increased measures and offering a booster shot sooner than planned.

The fact that 6 million people in France have not been vaccinated “cannot be tolerated,” Castex said, as hospitals “are full of unvaccinated people” amid a spike in infections, which has led to the closure of nightclubs.

At the beginning of January, the government will propose a new law that will make the Covid pass only valid for people who are vaccinated, meaning proof of recent recovery or a negative test will no longer be accepted.

The French government will also make the booster mandatory for healthcare workers and firefighters.

The move comes as several outbreaks have been spotted in Paris hospitals, Health minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday in an interview with France Inter radio.

“We do not want to find ourselves, as in Scotland, with 25 percent or 30 percent of health workers who cannot work because they are contact cases, and are in quarantine,” he said.

More restrictions are also expected in England, where scientific advisers to the government are in favor of imposing more curbs to stop the rise in hospitalizations.

The government recently reinstated mask mandates on public transport and indoor public spaces, while a Covid-19 pass is required to enter mass events.

The scientific panel which advises the government said further restrictions are needed in England, in line with other UK countries, calling for limiting social contacts to members of three different households and closing nightclubs from late December.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergency is particularly concerned by the current spread of the Omicron, which will cause a spike in hospital admissions unless social contacts are reduced.

The curbs could include banning indoor meetings and limiting restaurants and bars to outdoor service for two weeks after Christmas, local media reported.

The United Kingdom on Friday reported 93,045 cases in 24 hours, a single day record, while hospitalizations have skyrocketed by 8.1 percent in the last seven days.

The Dutch government, meanwhile, is expected to meet on Saturday to decide on the recommendations of its team of advisers to extend the night curfew and shut down schools and all non-essential activity.

Under the proposed lockdown, only essential stores such as supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations will remain open, as well as minimum services of some essential professions. EFE


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