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COVID in Europe: Germany mulls new measures as Austria extends them

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By Euronews  with AP
People walk at the Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.
People walk at the Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Martin Meissner

COVID-19 cases are sweeping Europe once again - here is a breakdown of how each country has reacted to the surge.

Measures vary across the continent, from a national lockdown in Austria to the United Kingdom where only light restrictions are in place.

Concerns over the Omicron new variant detected in South Africa has prompted many European countries to put curbs on travel.

The World Health Organization warned in November that Europe and Central Asia could face another 700,000 COVID-19 deaths by March 1.

Here is a run-down of the latest situation in some of the European countries.

Germany

German lawmakers will discuss possible new COVID-19 measures on Thursday (December 2) that could result in the closure of bars.

It comes after a top German court upheld measures imposed by the government to tackle all-time high COVID-19 infections. The Federal Constitutional Court found that a curfew and school closures were in line with the country's constitution.

Germany has faced a surge in cases, reporting more than 67,000 new cases in 24 hours on Wednesday.

Austria

Austria's lockdown has officially been extended until December 11 as planned amid signs that the measures are helping to bring down a sky-high coronavirus infection rate.

Essential shops that were allowed to open until 9 pm, however, will have to close by 7 pm starting on Thursday (December 2).

The country issued the lockdown on Monday (November 22), becoming the first EU country to take such a measure in the face of the COVID-19 resurgence.

Conservative Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has also said that vaccination will become compulsory from February 1.

Authorities in Austria said on November 17 that travellers would need to show a negative PCR test upon entering the country. Previously, results from the cheaper lateral flow tests were allowed.

Greece

Greek lawmakers approved mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for people over 60 in response to a surge in cases.

Around 17% of Greeks aged over 60 have not yet been vaccinated.

If they do not get the vaccine by 16 January, they risk being fined €100 for every month they remain unvaccinated.

Portugal

Portugal reintroduced tighter pandemic restrictions on Wednesday to contain a new surge in infections.

Face masks have once again become mandatory and the country tightened control of its borders.

A digital certificate proving vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 is required to access restaurants, cinemas and hotels.

Portugal has a high vaccination rate with around 86% of its population fully vaccinated against the virus.

Armando Franca/AP
A woman wearing a face mask crosses a street in Lisbon, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021.Armando Franca/AP

Denmark

Denmark recorded a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday (December 1), with 5,120 new infections in the last 24 hours.

Denmark is offering COVID-19 booster jobs to people over the age of 18, the health authority said on November 26, stating that immunity was declining for people in younger age groups as well.

On November 12, Denmark reintroduced its digital pass as it declared COVID-19 “a socially critical disease” once again amid an increase in cases.

Until at least mid-December, a valid pass is mandatory in order to enter nightclubs or cafes or to be seated indoors in restaurants.

United Kingdom

Scientists in the UK have advised that all adults should now be included in the COVID-19 booster jab campaign in the wake of the spread of the Omicron variant.

The new variant is causing worry around the world due to the high number of mutations it has, which scientists warn could have implications for not only transmissibility but also vaccine effectiveness.

Wei Shen Lim, chairman of a UK government sub-committee on vaccinations, said at a press briefing on Monday that all adults aged 18-34 should now be included in the booster programme.

Belgium

Belgium has closed nightclubs and requires people to work from home as part of an effort to curb COVID-19 cases. The government issued new measures on Friday (November 26) including shutting bars and restaurants from 11 pm.

Events held indoors must be seated and private meetings, besides weddings and funerals, are banned.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Thursday (November 25) that his country had recorded an uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations far worse than feared, after reimposing tougher pandemic rules last week.

The surge exceeded “the most pessimistic curves” drawn last week by experts, he said in a statement.

Netherlands

A new round of restrictions entered into force over the weekend including the closure of all non-essential shops including bars and restaurants from 17:00 to 05:00.

Hospitality and cultural venues have to ensure people are seated 1.5m apart, which "means fewer people can be admitted to these locations," the government said.

Amateurs sporting events are also not permitted between 17:00 and 05:00 with professional sports events allowed to proceed but with no spectator.

AP Photo/Peter Dejong
The capital's shopping streets are near-empty after 5 pm in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Czech Republic

A 30-day state of emergency came into effect on Friday (November 26) as the Czech Republic sees record-high COVID-19 cases.

As part of the government's anti-COVID measures, all Christmas markets across the country are banned and people will not be allowed to drink alcohol in public places, health minister Adam Vojtech said. Bars, restaurants, nightclubs, discotheques and casinos have to close at 10 p.m.

The number of people at culture and sports events will be limited to 1,000 who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 All other public gatherings can be attended by up to 100 visitors, down from 1,000.

Slovakia

Slovakia declared a 90-day state of emergency and a two-week lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases that saw the country’s seven-day average of cases rise above 10,000.

The central European country is currently in the midst of the world’s fastest rise in infections, and the measures, which include closing all non-essential stores, as well as bars and restaurants, are meant to help the struggling healthcare system.

Just 45.3% of the 5.5 million population is fully vaccinated.

France

France is toughening its conditions of entry to the country. From Saturday (December 4), all arrivals from non-EU countries will have to provide a negative COVID test carried out within the previous 48 hours, even if they have been vaccinated.

The country reported another 49,610 new daily cases on Wednesday (December 1), up from 47,177 the previous day. The average taken over a week has shot up by over 50%. Health Minister Olivier Véran has warned that the sanitary situation in the country "is worsening".

From 15 January, all adults will need a booster jab at least seven months after being fully vaccinated in order to keep their health passes. From mid-December, people over the age of 65 will need one to have their health passes extended.

Some 76.8% of France's 67.4 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures.

Italy

The Italian government on Wednesday (November 24) decided to exclude unvaccinated people from certain leisure activities in a bid to contain rising coronavirus infections and avoid financially crippling lockdowns.

Starting December 6, only people with proof of vaccination or of having recovered from COVID-19 can eat at indoor restaurants, go to the movies or attend sporting events. Having just a negative test result is no longer acceptable in what was dubbed a "reinforced" or super green pass.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP Photo
A demonstrator holds a banner reading "No Green Pass, freedom" during a protest against restrictions for the unvaccinated at Rome Circus Maximus, Saturday, 20 November 2021.Alessandra Tarantino/AP Photo

A new government decree also made vaccinations mandatory for law enforcement, military, and all school employees, among others. Previously, vaccines were only required for health care workers.

Twenty towns in Italy's South Tyrol province face harsher COVID-19 restrictions from Wednesday (November 24) with an 8 pm curfew due to high infections and low vaccinations.

On public transport, passengers must wear an FFP2 mask or equivalent.

Russia

Coronavirus infections in Russia have started to fall but daily deaths remain high.

There were more than 31,000 new infections reported on Tuesday (November 30) and around 1,195 deaths.

Cases surged in October amid low vaccination rates and lax public attitudes toward taking precautions. About 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine months before most of the world.

Sweden

The Swedish government has announced that from December 1 a health pass will be required to attend any event of more than 100 people.

The COVID pass — attesting that the holder has either been fully vaccinated, tested negative over the previous 72 hours or recovered from the disease over the preceding six months — has so far only been used in Sweden for travel purposes.

The government also reversed its November 1 decision to stop testing fully vaccinated people.

Ireland

From Friday (December 3), people arriving from overseas must have a negative test result in addition to being vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. The government also began recommending face masks for children.

New COVID-19 restrictions came into force in Ireland on Thursday (November 18) due to high rates of infection that have put pressure on hospitals. People were told to work from home unless attending the workplace is "absolutely necessary".

A requirement for COVID-19 passes (based on vaccination or recovery) is extended to cinemas and theatres, while closing times for all on-licensed premises, including in hotels, will move to midnight.

Ukraine

From December 9, unvaccinated civil servants and social workers will be fired, the government said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on November 16 that those who receive two jabs of the vaccine will be given a payment of 1,000 hryvnias, or about 33 euros in an attempt to alleviate vaccination reluctance.

Statistics on how many people received both doses vary greatly, with reports claiming that it stands anywhere between 20 and 28 per cent.

Switzerland

Swiss voters approved by a clear margin the so-called 'COVID-19 law' in a referendum on Sunday (November 28).

The legislation, which is already in force, includes a pandemic recovery package and the application of a controversial COVID certificate.

Like in many other countries in Europe, this health pass only lets people who have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative attend public events and gatherings.

Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File
Protesters gather for a demonstration march against civil restrictions and the COVID-19 vaccine, in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 9, 2021.Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File

Bulgaria

Cases are beginning to decrease in Bulgaria after a massive surge in October but the vaccination rate is still quite low at just a quarter of the population.

There were 2,681 new cases reported on Wednesday (December 1) and 128 deaths.

The country has 6,470 people hospitalised with COVID-19 and 717 in intensive care units.

Romania

Like Bulgaria, Romania has found itself in the throes of a deadly spike in cases in October, but cases have now decreased significantly since the beginning of the month.

Croatia

Protesters gathered in Zagreb over the weekend over tighter COVID restrictions after the government announced plans to introduce mandatory COVID passes for government and public employees, including school teachers.

The nation of around four million people has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union, with only 53 per cent of the total receiving at least one jab, and only 57 per cent of the 3.3 million adults fully immunised.

Latvia

From 15 December, people must present a COVID-19 vaccination or recovery certificate in order to show up to work.

People who are not vaccinated or who have not recovered from COVID-19 are allowed in grocery shops, pharmacies and other essential shops.

Additional sources • AFP