January 18, 2022

Faced with the Omicron wave, European countries are tightening the screw

Faced with the explosion in the number of contaminations with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus across the world, governments are resorting in dispersed order to the range of preventive measures already implemented during previous waves – containment, curfews, border closures , massive screening… – but also rely on the advances made since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – vaccination, first and foremost. More and more countries are wondering about making it compulsory, extending it to children or talking about a fourth dose. But these strategies come up against strong reluctance locally and, in places, political considerations take precedence over the health situation.

In recent days, depending on the country, the populations have therefore returned to restrictions on movement and assembly, especially for the end of the year celebrations, others have rushed to the tests, made more accessible, or have been ordered to wear the mask in all circumstances. In many countries, the strain on hospitals is also starting to manifest itself.

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In Spain, the wearing of a mask in the open air is once again compulsory

This is the case in Spain, where the government announced, Wednesday, December 22, that it would mobilize retired health professionals and impose the wearing of masks outdoors. After believing itself spared by the new wave, thanks to the success of the vaccination (85% of people over 70 have already received the third dose), the country is in fact experiencing levels of contamination never seen before (nearly 50,000 cases December 21); the Omicron variant also represents nearly 50% of the PCR tests analyzed.

With nearly 7,500 people hospitalized and 1,500 in intensive care units, the occupancy rate of hospitals by Covid-19 patients is 15%. The government is also focusing its strategy on immunizing children aged 5 to 12, which began on December 15, and on the third dose. Catalonia has announced the closure of nightclubs, the reestablishment of a gauge in restaurants, bars, theaters, shops, and the establishment of a curfew between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Despite a slight decrease in hospitalizations, the Dutch government justifies the maintenance of severe restrictions until mid-January 2022 to protect intensive care units, where the number of beds is considered insufficient. Particularly affected, The Netherlands ordered virtual lockdown on December 19 – shutting down non-essential stores, schools, cultural venues, restaurants and cafes. But faced with the reluctance of a large part of the population, the authorities hesitate to discuss the transformation of the health pass into a vaccination pass, or to decree compulsory vaccination. In Belgium, the parties also remain divided on this subject, but all are calling for a parliamentary debate.

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