COVID-19 resurgence

Europe tightens Covid rules with Omicron on track to dominate infections

Days before Christmas, European countries are tightening measures to tackle a surge in Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant gets set to become the dominant strain.

Only those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus disease are allowed to visit the Christmas markets in Germany.
Only those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus disease are allowed to visit the Christmas markets in Germany. © REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

The meteoric rise of Omicron, which now represents 20 percent of cases in France, will overtake the Delta variant sometime between Christmas and New Year, Health Minister Olivier Véran told BFM TV Wednesday.

While children aged 5-11 may be vaccinated as of Wednesday, teenagers are not yet eligible for a booster dose.

The Europe-wide surge risks pushing health systems towards the brink of collapse, Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe warned.

"Within weeks, Omicron will dominate in more countries of the region, pushing already stretched health systems further to the brink," Kluge said.


Paris has already scrapped its New Year celebrations, and Germany slapped a limit of 10 people on private parties, closed nightclubs and banned spectators from major events including soccer matches.

"Coronavirus doesn't take a Christmas break," Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

"This is not the time for parties and cozy evenings with lots of people."

Bars in Finland will be forced to close at 9pm on Christmas Eve as part of new restrictions designed to fight record Covid infection levels.

Spain's Catalonia region is considering a clampdown as well, while Morocco has announced a blanket ban on New Year's Eve celebrations. The Netherlands has already imposed a Christmas lockdown.

Disruption to sports 

But in the sporting world, while some leagues have been forced to postpone matches due to Covid outbreaks, others moved full steam ahead. 

African football chief Patrice Motsepe confirmed Tuesday that the Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead as planned in Cameroon next month, and the NBA says it has no plans to pause its season.

Scientists are racing to know more about the Omicron strain, first detected last month in South Africa, with infections reported worldwide among fully vaccinated people.

The WHO approved another coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, from US firm Novavax. 

The shot was authorised by the EU on Monday, the fifth in the bloc after vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. 

(With AFP)

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