Covid-19 in Europe: France, Germany battered; new curbs in Austria, Italy
The emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus has made the situation worse in Europe, which is battered by rising infections and hospitalisations. The healthcare infrastructure in Europe has been stretched to the limit, prompting many governments to re-impose strict curbs.
The situation in the United Kingdom, however, is improving compared to other countries in Europe. The number of daily cases has been falling after reaching a peak earlier this month.
Official government data shows that Covid-19 cases have been rising in Portugal, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic. The numbers appear to be high in Italy and Spain too, though the peak has subsided.
Here's a look at what the situation is in other European countries and the measures undertaken by them to tackle it:
France: The French government is introducing new vaccine passport rules for visitors to cafes and restaurants from next week. The announcement was made by French Prime Minister Jean Castex in a television address.
Till now, a negative Covid-19 test was sufficient for people in France to enter cafes, restaurants or other places. "The vaccination pass will come into effect next Monday," said Castex.
France hit a daily record on Tuesday when 464,769 cases of Covid-19 were recorded. On Thursday, the number stood at 425,183, according to French Public Health Agency.
Germany: The country's seven-day Covid-19 incidence rate exceeded 600 for the first time as 638.8 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants were recorded, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Thursday.
Due to the more contagious Omicron variant that is spreading across Europe, daily infections in Germany also climbed to a new record as 133,536 cases were registered within 24 hours, around 52,000 more than a week ago.
Austria: The Austrian Parliament has passed a law to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory from February. The Compulsory Vaccination Law apply to all persons aged 18 and over who are registered in Austria. The unvaccinated people have been asked to take a vaccine shot till March 15. The authorities will send a notification by mail.
The exceptions are persons under 18 years of age, pregnant women, persons for whom vaccination may be associated with health risks.
United Kingdom: In the United Kingdom, mask-wearing in public places and Covid-19 passports will be dropped on January 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday saying that the latest wave had “peaked nationally.”
The requirement for infected people to isolate for five full days remains in place, but Johnson said he will seek to scrap it in coming weeks if the virus data continues to improve. Official statistics put at 95% the share of the British population that has developed antibodies against Covid-19 either from infection or vaccination.
Ireland: The Ireland’s government will end the 8pm curfew for bars and restaurants by the end of next week, allowing them to stay open until midnight, the Irish Independent reported, without saying where it got the information.
Other restrictions on the hospitality sector, live events and order to work from home advise will be relaxed in coming weeks, the newspaper said. Cases numbers in Ireland are dropping, and hospitalisations have remained relatively low in the latest wave.
Italy: The government in Italy is extending its vaccination mandate to all citizens age 50 or older and imposing fines of up to 1,500 euros for unvaccinated people who show up at work. Italians are also required to be fully vaccinated to access public transportation, planes, gyms, hotels and trade fairs.