Sunday, November 28

Covid-19. Germany, the Netherlands, Austria … How Europe is coping with the fifth wave

In the words of the World Health Organization, Europe is “in the grip” of the Covid-19 epidemic. Currently, more than 1.5 million people have died from the disease on the continent, but the fifth wave could lead to an additional 700,000 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 2.2 million by spring, according to the ‘WHO. While winter is fast approaching, many European countries, especially those where the vaccination rate is not sufficient, have thus chosen to tighten the measures of health restrictions, in some cases leading to strong protest. The point country by country.

Germany worries and tightens the screw

Germany is hit by an intense fourth wave of contamination. The vaccination rate is less than 70%, less than France for example where it reaches 75%. The health situation is such that a debate on compulsory vaccination, rejected by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is raging. Two regional leaders pleaded in a forum for such an obligation, while the incidence rate of new infections over 7 days approached the threshold of 400 on Tuesday, a record for the 16th day in a row.

In a shocking formula, the German Minister of Health Jens Spahn warned Monday that “almost everyone will be vaccinated, cured or dead” by “probably the end of winter” due to the spread of the Delta variant “very , very contagious “. On Monday, Angela Merkel also warned of a “highly dramatic situation”. The current restrictions are “no longer sufficient”, she warned, just four days after having decided with her probable successor Olaf Scholz of severe coercive measures against the unvaccinated.

The so-called “2G” rule, which only allows the vaccinated (“geimpfte”) and the cured (“genesene”) to access public places such as restaurants or concert halls will be applied as soon as the hospitalization threshold exceeds three Covid patients per 100,000 inhabitants, which is already the case in twelve of the country’s sixteen regional states. According to this provision, presenting a negative test is no longer sufficient if the person is not vaccinated. The city-state of Berlin is already applying this measure. When the hospitalization threshold exceeds the value of six, the vaccinated and cured must, in addition to their certificate, have a negative test to access a list of establishments. In addition, closures of shops, restaurants or bars in the regions are not excluded as a last resort.

On the other hand, the schools remain open, but the pupils subjected to regular tests. It was also decided a massive return to teleworking wherever possible and an obligation of health pass in transport and in the workplace. Access to care centers or retirement homes for visitors and nursing staff is also only granted on presentation of a test of less than 24 hours, including for vaccinated or cured people.

Austria borders

In Austria, the vaccination rate is again below 70%. Faced with the explosion of contaminations, the government has taken an unprecedented measure since the availability of anti-coronavirus sera. Despite a strong grudge expressed in the streets last weekend, all Austrians have been confined again since Monday and until December 13. Shops, restaurants, Christmas markets, concerts and hairdressers have lowered the curtain. But schools remain open and the streets of the capital Vienna were rather busy on Monday. In addition to this confinement, the vaccination of the adult population will become mandatory on February 1, 2022, which very few countries in the world have introduced so far.

In the Netherlands, new measures and unrest

Also in the grip of an outbreak of Covid-19 cases, the Netherlands reintroduced a series of health restrictions last week: essential bars, restaurants and shops must close at 8 p.m., and non-essential stores at 6 p.m. . The government further warned that it could take further restrictions if current measures are not followed. This could go as far as measures “similar to a containment”, explained Monday the Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge. These restrictions could be announced by Dec. 3, according to public broadcaster NOS. The executive also unveiled a bill to reserve the health pass only to those vaccinated and cured of Covid-19. With this controversial legislation, bars, restaurants and many public places could deny access to the unvaccinated.

But the country has faced major unrest in recent days in the wake of rallies against health measures. Tensions started in Rotterdam on Friday. Four protesters were injured by police gunfire according to the latest estimates. Five police officers were also injured in The Hague on Saturday evening in clashes with protesters, who threw stones, burned bicycles and fired fireworks. At least 145 people were arrested.

Belgium tightens restrictions and faces violence

Against the backdrop of a sharp rebound in contaminations and hospitalizations, Belgium had to resign itself last week to tightening the restrictions in force to access certain events and public places. In application for about a month, the health pass now doubles the wearing of a mask to attend a show. In addition, teleworking is made compulsory four days a week for at least three weeks and Parliament should soon debate a vaccination obligation for caregivers applicable from January 1.

On Sunday in Brussels, tens of thousands of people (35,000 according to the police) marched to protest against these new measures under the slogan “Together for freedom”.
The demonstration started peacefully but the police then had to use water cannons and tear gas in front of a group of people throwing projectiles. Three police officers were injured and there were around 40 arrests.

In Ireland, telework and curfew

The Irish government announced last Tuesday the implementation of new restrictions to stem a resurgence of the coronavirus in the country and preserve the health system, including teleworking and a curfew for bars and restaurants, which must close before midnight.

Even vaccinated, people who come into contact with a confirmed case of Covid must “restrict their movements” for five days. The health pass is extended and the limit to receive a third dose is lowered to age 50, compared to 60 previously.

Sweden introduces a vaccination pass for the first time

Faced with the surge in contaminations, Sweden, which stood out in the coronavirus crisis by the lack of containment, recently announced that it would institute from December 1 and for the first time a vaccination pass for domestic events of more than 100 persons. The Nordic country, which had decided from November 1 to no longer test fully vaccinated people, even in the event of symptoms, has also decided to reverse this criticized decision.

Although Sweden currently records few cases unlike many European countries, the country “is not isolated from the rest of the world,” said Health Minister Lena Hallengren. The presentation of a vaccination certificate, which had been recommended a little earlier by the public health authority, excludes the youngest – the government still has to choose between a threshold of 16 or 18 years. Events applying the measure will be exempt from other restrictions. Restaurants and bars are currently exempt.

No new measures in Switzerland

The Swiss Minister of Health on Wednesday dismissed new restrictions to deal with the 5th wave, as daily infections quadrupled in one month, to their highest level of 2021. The future of the pandemic “will depend on the behavior of all “, he warned, hoping nevertheless” to control the evolution with the current measures “. The minister was speaking as the country must vote at the polls on November 28 on the Covid law, which gives more latitude to the authorities to fight the pandemic.

New restrictions considered in Portugal, Spain expands third dose

Portugal, one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates (86%), is considering further restrictions to deal with the surge in cases. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa estimated last Tuesday inevitable the return of the wearing of the compulsory mask outdoors.

The Spanish government recently announced that it would expand the administration of a third dose of the vaccine to people over 60 and healthcare professionals. Spain is also one of the countries in the world with the highest vaccination rate: according to the authorities, 79% of the inhabitants have a complete vaccination schedule.

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