‘Tricked’ before Christmas, EU countries seek to slow virus

‘Tricked’ before Christmas, EU countries seek to slow virus

The Hague Countries across Europe took new measures on Friday to try to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak from spiraling out of control, hoping that the measure will now protect the joys of Christmas next month.

The sudden rise in cases fueled by the contagious delta variant is forcing governments to act to rein in infections even in countries without significant rises and where vaccination rates are high.

Meanwhile, the world on Friday faced another challenge in its long epidemiological ordeal: the discovery of a new, potentially more transmissible, variant of COVID-19 found in South Africa — which the World Health Organization on Friday called “Omicron” under its Greek name. . messaging system.

In Belgium, where a surge in cases and hospital admissions has outstripped even the worst medical expectations, Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo stepped up measures for the second time in just over a week and closed nightclubs, while bars and restaurants are to close at 11pm. For the next three weeks.


“The delta formula has fooled us,” he said.

“This is unprecedented in our country,” he said, referring to more than 25,000 cases a day now in the country of 11 million.

Neighboring Netherlands is equally affected by the virus.

Health Minister Hugo de Jong said hospitals across the Netherlands have been asked to restart planned surgeries and to expand intensive care and intensive care beds to 1,350 across the country to deal with the growing number of COVID patients.

The Dutch government tightened its lockdown Friday night amid a rapid rise in infections and admissions to the intensive care unit, although it kept schools and universities open – with most students having to wear masks in the corridors between lessons.

Interim Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that for three weeks starting on Sunday, all venues such as bars, restaurants, theaters and stores selling non-essential items from 5pm until 5am under the current lockdown, should close at 8pm.


“The numbers are high, higher, higher,” Ruti said of the outbreak.

He said a panel of experts had advised the government to take measures to reduce the number of contacts between people by at least 20%.

“It means we won’t get there with some small tweaks. Which is why we are here today, a week earlier, hopefully, with another message that will require a lot from all of us,” Rutte said.

He urged people to stay and work from home as much as possible and expanded the use of face masks and social distancing to cover locations where the country’s COVID permit is already in use.

As Rutte spoke, a few dozen protesters noisily, but peacefully, demonstrated on a nearby street, whistling and sounding sirens. Some carried posters that read in Dutch: “It’s not true.”

In Spain and Portugal, where infection rates are lower than most of Europe, authorities have also been restoring previous restrictions or adding new ones.


In Spain, despite the full vaccination of 79% of its population of 47 million, and hospitalizations growing at a slower pace than in previous increases, the mandatory use of so-called COVID-19 is becoming widespread.

In Catalonia in northeastern Spain, permits were supposed to become mandatory from Friday to enter bars, restaurants, gyms, nightclubs and nursing homes. But authorities in the area said they had put the matter on hold due to the huge number of permit applications.

The Catalan Health Ministry said in a statement that it had received more than 700,000 applications for permits in the four days leading up to Friday. Health authorities said the implementation of the mandatory permits would be reviewed next week.

In Portugal, less than two months after the lifting of most of the strict restrictions of the epidemic, the government announced on Thursday that it will restore some measures such as the mandatory face masks in enclosed spaces or the digital certificate required to enter some places. Even vaccinated people must test negative to visit hospitals, nursing homes, sporting events, bars and discos.


And in Italy, where the COVID situation has been under control compared to neighbors such as Austria, mayors in cities including Milan, Bologna, Padua and Bergamo have been imposing a mask for the holiday season. New restrictions were also expected in Rome.

Meanwhile, Denmark said on Friday that it plans to start offering COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 starting this weekend after the European Union’s regulator approved the Pfizer vaccine for children on Thursday.

“Our assessment is that by introducing children into the target group, we can increase immunity and break up the infection,” said Helen Probst, deputy head of the Danish Health Authority. “We need this.”

She said Denmark was “in the midst of a historic health crisis.”


Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Associated Press writers Colin Barry in Milan, Aritz Barra in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, and Jan M Olsen in Copenhagen have contributed to this.

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