Spain reintroduces masks outdoors as UK passes 100k cases

Madrid Desk, Dec 22 (EFE).- The United Kingdom reported over 100,000 daily Covid-19 infections for the first time on Wednesday as the country gears up for a Christmas period with minimal restrictions while Spain announced it would reintroduce mandatory mask use outdoors to curb a sixth wave of the virus, which is surging across the continent.

A record-breaking 106,122 Covid-19 cases were detected in the UK in the last 24 hours as cases continue to surge to new highs driven by the highly-contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Amid the spiralling figures, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that the government would not enforce new restrictions before Christmas despite warnings from scientific groups that immediate measures were needed to stem the drastic uptick in infections.

The Spanish government on Wednesday announced it would reintroduce obligatory mask use outdoors in a bid to curb surging cases of Covid-19.

The decision comes following a meeting between prime minister Pedro Sanchez and regional leaders as the country draws up an action plan for a sixth wave of Covid-19.

Sanchez said the rule would be approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday.

Masks were made obligatory in all public spaces in Spain at the beginning of the pandemic last year, but rules were relaxed in June 2021 when the coverings were restricted to indoor venues and spaces where social distancing was not possible.

However, mask use in crowded public areas such as busy shopping streets continues to be prevalent across the country.

The PM also set out new vaccination targets that aim to offer a booster dose to 80% of 60-69-year-olds by the end of the year while other age groups will see a speed-up in the rollout through to March.

Spain has one of the highest rates of vaccine uptake in Europe, and has administered enough jabs to protect 90% of the population.

The high vaccine rates underpinned Sanchez’s earlier announcement Wednesday that families could celebrate Christmas together despite surging cases.

The Covid-19 incidence rate has almost quadrupled since the beginning of the month to 695 cases per 100,000.

Germany has also prioritized Covid-19 booster shots as its main weapon to curb a fifth wave of coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the booster shot “will not prevent the wave, but is the most important thing we can do to prevent many people from becoming seriously ill.”

So far, 28.1 million Germans have received a booster dose, accounting for 33.8% of the population.

The government on Tuesday approved new restrictions to come into force December 28 after the Robert Koch Institute for disease control recommended an immediate and maximum reduction of social contacts to avoid a skyrocketing of cases over Christmas.

Meanwhile in Italy, over 300 doctors and health workers have been working despite not being vaccinated against Covid-19, Italian Carabinieri reported Wednesday.

In October this year, the government made Covid-19 health passes mandatory for all workers in private and public sectors. All workers who fail to present a valid certificate proving either full vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from the virus, would be suspended without pay.

This month, authorities tightened measures so that no doctors or health workers could legally refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Since, 308 health workers have been working without being vaccinated and 135 of them have already been suspended.

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