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COVID in Europe: Austria extends lockdown as Portugal tightens restrictions

COVID-19 cases are sweeping across Europe again – here’s a breakdown of how each country has responded to the outbreak.

Measures vary across the continent, from a national lockdown in Austria to the UK where only slight restrictions are in place.

Concerns over the new variant of Omicron detected in South Africa have prompted many European countries to restrict travel.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization warned that Europe and Central Asia could face 700,000 more deaths from COVID-19 by March 1.

Here is a look at the latest situation in some of the European countries.

Austria

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

Essential stores that were allowed to open until 9 p.m., however, will have to close by 7 p.m. from Thursday (December 2).

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

Conservative Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also said vaccination would become mandatory from February 1.

Austrian authorities said on November 17 that travelers should show a negative PCR test upon entering the country. Previously, cheaper side flow test results were allowed.

Portugal

Portugal reintroduced stricter pandemic restrictions on Wednesday to contain a new wave of infections.

Face masks have become mandatory again and the country has 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.

Germany

A high-level German court upheld the measures imposed by the government to tackle the highest COVID-19 infections of all time.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a curfew and school closures were in line with the country’s constitution.

More recently, Germany reported 67,000 new cases and 446 deaths.

UK

British scientists have indicated that all adults should now be included in the COVID-19 recall campaign following the spread of the Omicron variant.

The new variant worries the whole world because of the high number of mutations it has, which scientists say could have implications not only for transmissibility but also for the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Wei Shen Lim, chairman of a UK government sub-committee on vaccinations, told a press briefing on Monday that all adults between the ages of 18 and 34 should now be included in the booster program.

Belgium

Belgium has closed nightclubs and is forcing people to work from home as part of an effort to curb cases of COVID-19. The government released new measures on Friday, November 26, including closing bars and restaurants from 11 p.m.

Events held indoors must be seated and private meetings, in addition to weddings and funerals, are prohibited.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Thursday, November 25, his country had seen a much worse increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations than expected, after reimposing stricter pandemic rules last week.

The push has passed “the most pessimistic curves” drawn by experts last week, he said in a statement.

Netherlands

A new set of restrictions came into effect over the weekend, including the closure of all non-essential stores, including bars and restaurants, from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Hospitality and cultural venues must ensure that people are seated 1.5m apart, which “means fewer people can be admitted to these places,” the government said.

Amateur sporting events are also not allowed between 5:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., professional sporting events being allowed to take place but without a spectator.

Czech Republic

A 30-day state of emergency went into effect on Friday November 26 as the Czech Republic records a record number of 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, nightclubs and casinos must close at 10 p.m.

The number of people at cultural and sporting events will be limited to 1,000 people vaccinated or cured of COVID-19. All other public gatherings can accommodate up to 100 visitors, up from 1,000 previously.

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 surpass 10,000.

The central European country is currently experiencing the world’s fastest rise in infections, and the measures, which include closing all non-essential shops, as well as bars and restaurants, are aimed at helping the struggling healthcare system.

Only 45.3% of the 5.5 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated.

France

The French Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, warned on Tuesday November 30 that the health situation in the country “was worsening”.

Speaking to lawmakers, he said 47,000 new infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours and that this represents “an increase in the spread of the virus nationwide.”

Starting January 15, all adults will need a booster shot at least seven months after being fully immunized in order to keep their passport healthy. From mid-December, people over 65 will need it to extend their health subscription.

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

Italy

The Italian government decided on Wednesday November 24 to exclude unvaccinated people from certain leisure activities in a bid to contain the increase in coronavirus infections and avoid crippling financial bottlenecks.

As of December 6, only people with proof of vaccination or having recovered from COVID-19 will be able to eat in covered restaurants, go to the movies or attend sporting events. Just having a negative test result is no longer acceptable in what has been dubbed a “hardened” or super green pass.

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

Twenty cities in the Italian province of South Tyrol face tougher COVID-19 restrictions from Wednesday, November 24 with an 8 p.m. curfew due to high infections and low vaccinations.

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

Russia

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

More than 31,000 new infections were reported on Tuesday, November 30, and around 1,195 deaths.

Cases rose in October amid low vaccination rates and a lax public attitude towards taking precautions. About 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully immunized, even though the country approved a nationally developed COVID-19 vaccine months before most countries around 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 – certifying that the holder has been fully vaccinated, tested negative in the previous 72 hours, or cured of the disease in the previous six months – has so far only been used in Sweden for the purpose of trip.

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

Ireland

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

New COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in Ireland on Thursday November 18 due to high infection rates which put pressure on hospitals. People have been told to work from home unless it is “absolutely necessary” to go to the workplace.

A COVID-19 pass requirement (based on vaccination or recovery) is extended to cinemas and theaters, while the closing hours of all licensed venues, including hotels, will drop to midnight.

Ukraine

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

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

Statistics on how many people have received both doses vary widely, with reports claiming to be between 20% and 28%.

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 plan and the enforcement of a controversial COVID certificate.

As in many other European countries, this health pass only allows people who have been vaccinated, cured or tested negative to attend public events and gatherings.

Bulgaria

Cases are starting to decline in Bulgaria after a sharp increase in October, but the vaccination rate is still quite low for only a quarter of the population.

As of Wednesday, December 1, 2,681 new cases were reported and 128 deaths.

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

Romania

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

Croatia

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

This country of around four million people has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union, with just 53% of the total receiving at least one vaccine and only 57% of the 3.3 million adults completely immune.

Latvia

Starting December 15, people must present a COVID-19 vaccination or recovery certificate to report to work.

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

Denmark

Denmark will offer COVID-19 booster jobs to people over 18, the health authority said Thursday, November 26, saying immunity was declining for people in younger age groups as well.

On November 12, Denmark reintroduced its digital pass by again declaring COVID-19 “a socially critical illness” amid an increase in cases.

For the following month, a valid pass is required to enter nightclubs or cafes or to sit inside restaurants.


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