European countries expand reinforcement and tighten restrictions amid escalation of COVID | Corona virus pandemic news
European countries have expanded the scope of their COVID-19 booster vaccinations, launched plans to administer the vaccines to young children and tightened some restrictions as the continent grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases and concerns grow about its economic fallout.
Slovakia went into a two-week lockdown, the Czech government declared a 30-day state of emergency that includes early closures of bars and clubs and a ban on Christmas markets, while Germany on Thursday crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
Europe is at the center of the latest wave of COVID-19, reporting about 1 million new infections every two days and now accounting for nearly two-thirds of new infections worldwide.
The European Commission suggested on Thursday that EU residents will need booster shots if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer without the need for tests or quarantine.
In France, the authorities announced that the booster injection would be available to all people over the age of 18, rather than those over the age of 65 with underlying health problems.
Many countries are rolling out or increasing the use of booster injections, although the World Health Organization wants the most vulnerable people around the world to be fully vaccinated first.
In Africa, where only 6.6% of the population of 1.2 billion has been fully vaccinated, many countries are struggling with the logistics of speeding up their vaccination campaigns as the vaccines are finally delivered, the head of Africa’s disease control authority said Thursday.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Wednesday recommended the use of the booster vaccines for all adults, with priority given to those over the age of 40.
The number of new daily infections in Germany hit a record high of 75,961 on Thursday and the total death toll reached 100,119 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases.
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, in a report from Berlin, said that the authorities in Germany are struggling with an increase in cases, and some hospitals have had to send patients to other European countries.
“In Germany … many hospitals are filled with people who have not been vaccinated and have caught the delta type of coronavirus, which as we know is much more contagious,” Kane said.
“With hospitals full, they cannot find enough places, so they are asking European allies to take in some of their patients,” he added.
There is a growing incentive in some countries to vaccinate young children.
The European Union’s drug watchdog on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 at a lower dose, after approving the use of a vaccine for children up to age 12 in May. The European Commission will issue its final decision, which is expected on Friday.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were preparing to vaccinate young children after approval by the European Medicines Agency, although delivery of lower doses would not be due until December 20.
In France, where the number of infections doubles every 11 days, Health Minister Olivier Veran said he will ask health regulators to examine whether children aged 5 to 11 should be vaccinated.
Nearly half a million people across Europe have been saved due to vaccination, among people over the age of 60, since the vaccine was launched, the World Health Organization’s regional office said on Thursday in a study with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Many European countries are tightening restrictions.
The state of emergency declared by the Czech Republic allows the government to impose restrictions on public life. Authorities there ordered bars and clubs to close at 10pm (21:00 GMT), banned Christmas markets and reduced attendance at cultural and sporting events to 1,000 people.
Slovakia was closed for two weeks from Thursday in the wake of neighboring Austria, which began the lockdown on Monday. Slovakia, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union, has reported critical hospitalizations and new infections that have topped the global tables.
The authorities ordered the closure of all but essential shops and services and banned people from traveling outside their areas unless they go to work, school or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people are prohibited.
The French authorities have said that the rules on the wearing of face masks will be tightened, and the controls on health permits used to enter public places will also be increased. But officials said there was no need to follow the European countries that have reimposed lockdowns.
In Germany, Green Party co-leader Annalena Barbock said the new government, which includes the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), has set itself 10 days to decide whether more restrictions are needed.
Most of Germany has already introduced rules to restrict access to indoor activities for people who have been vaccinated or have recovered.
In the Netherlands, the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals has reached levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in just over a week if the virus is not contained.
The Dutch government has said it will take strict measures to curb infection. National broadcaster NOS reported Thursday that the government’s leading outbreak management team has advised the closure of restaurants, bars and non-essential stores by 5 p.m. as part of a new package of lockdown measures.