UK debates new Covid measures; NL, Italy mull Christmas restrictions

Madrid Desk, Dec 14 (EFE).- British prime minister Boris Johnson was facing a rebellion from dozens of members of his own Conservative Party on Tuesday during a vote in parliament on the government’s proposed restrictions to curb rising coronavirus infection rates.

Johnson has said the measures, which he insists are “balanced and proportionate,” are necessary to deal with a surge in cases driven by the new Omicron variant.

His health secretary, Sajid Javid, told the House of Commons Tuesday that the government wants to “come down hard on the virus now and strengthen defences” rather than wait.

“There is no time to lose,” he said in an attempt to convince skeptical Tories of the new restrictions, which include requiring proof of vaccination or recovery to enter certain cultural and sporting venues, as well as mask requirements for public transport and shops.

While Johnson cannot count on support from his own party, the opposition Labour Party has pledged to back the restrictions.

The prime minister announced Sunday that everyone over the age of 18 will be offered a booster shot of the Covid vaccine by the end of the year, after scientists said that Omicron would be the dominant variant in a matter of days.

Authorities in the Netherlands have also announced an extension of a nocturnal lockdown, under which all non-essential activities must close by 5pm local time.

They are mulling bringing forward the start of the Christmas school holidays, local media reported.

Acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge were due to hold a press conference Tuesday night to announce the measures.

Since the end of November, hotels, gyms and stores, as well as cultural centers and events and all non-essential activity have been banned from 5pm, with only supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies, along with other minimum services considered essential, can stay open until 8pm.

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