European nations reinstate Covid restrictions

European leaders are reinstating coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the continent.

Germany and Portugal are among nations announcing post-Christmas curbs and greater social distancing measures.

Omicron is already the dominant version in many European countries.

Spain has reported its highest number of daily cases since the start of the pandemic, and France has warned daily cases there could soon pass 100,000.

French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, said the increase in daily infections in the country, currently at about 70,000, would be driven by the Omicron variant, which he said was likely to become the dominant variant by early January.

The surge in cases across Europe will push health systems towards the brink of collapse, the World Health Organisation’s top official in the continent has warned.

Hans Kluge said “another storm” was coming and governments should brace for significant increases in cases.

France began vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11 on Wednesday, but said that boosters were not currently being offered to 12 to 15-year-olds.

Germany announced that from December 28, limits would return that restrict private gatherings to 10 people and nightclubs would close. Football matches from that date will also be played behind closed doors.

“Coronavirus doesn’t take a Christmas break,” Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said on Tuesday.

“We cannot – and must not – close our eyes to this next wave, which is beginning to loom over us,” he added.

Meanwhile, Portugal ordered bars and nightclubs to shut from December 26, and made working from home obligatory from that date until January 9. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

Bars and restaurants in Finland will have to close at 22:00 on 24 December, as the Nordic nation sees infections at a record level. For three weeks from 28 December, restaurants will have to close at 18:00 with limited seating. Travellers coming from the EU’s border-free Schengen zone will have to show a negative Covid test.

In the UK, Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced that people infected with Covid in England will be able to end quarantine after seven days instead of 10 if they test negative on days six and seven. -BBC

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