New corona restrictions in the UK; Report: The new German Chancellor supports the vaccination obligation

New findings released today (Tuesday) have raised further questions about the origin of the new strain of the corona virus, the omicron, and show that it was present in Europe even before it was first discovered last week in South Africa. Meanwhile, it is being discovered in more and more countries – France and Japan are the latest in a long list of countries to report its first discovery in their territory – and Europe, which is already facing a severe corona outbreak, continues to impose restrictions in an attempt to force vaccine refusals.

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The new strain, it will be recalled, is causing panic around the world due to the many mutations that have appeared in it and the suspicion that it is much more contagious than other strains, and may even be resistant in one way or another to the vaccines. Health authorities in South Africa first reported it to the World Health Organization on November 24, but today authorities in the Netherlands announced that they had discovered the new strain in a re-examination of tests taken there between November 19 and November 23. It should be noted that the first infection with the strain, which was reported in Belgium as early as the weekend, also reportedly returned from Egypt as early as November 11, and without having been in South Africa at all.

The global scare from the virus has led many countries around the world to significantly restrict flights from the southern continent of Africa. Israel, Morocco and Japan have even announced a total ban on foreigners entering their territory. As in Israel, where the strain has already been discovered among several residents, these restrictions in Japan did not prevent the penetration of the omicron, and the authorities there announced this morning the first case of the new strain. In Germany, authorities have announced that one of those infected with Omicron is a person who did not leave the country at all and was not in contact with anyone else who left it.

These facts call into question the effectiveness of the restrictions imposed by the countries of the world, and some compare them to the chaotic traffic restrictions announced in the first days of the plague outbreak in early 2020. “I very much understand the countries’ fear and desire to protect their citizens Today the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanum Gabrisus. “But I am equally concerned that some of the member states of the organization have taken sweeping and blatant steps, which are not based on evidence and are not effective in themselves, and will only exacerbate the problem of inequality.”

In a closed meeting of representatives of the member states of the health organization, Gabrisus called on them to adhere to “proportional and rational” measures. The health organization, it will be recalled, has already criticized in recent days the halting of flights from South Africa, claiming that it is a punishment for the scientific excellence of this country – and its rapid reporting to the world on the discovery of the new strain.

The omicron is also causing concern in China, which is currently in the final stages of preparation for hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing this coming February. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhou Lijian said in a briefing to reporters today that the discovery of the variant “certainly brings with it certain challenges regarding prevention and control.” However, he stressed that he is “confident that the games will be held as planned, successfully and smoothly”.

China, where the corona virus was first discovered about two years ago, was able to stop the initial outbreak in its territory within a few weeks, while the virus then spread around the world, and has since prevented significant new outbreaks through very strict rules, including restricting entry. Of spectators for the Winter Olympics. Athletes, team members and journalists will be in isolated “bubbles” throughout the games.

Meanwhile, in the shadow of the fear of the new strain, Europe is continuing its feverish efforts to raise the rate of immunization against the virus, following the severe outbreak suffered by the continent, from east to west. A number of countries there have already imposed severe restrictions on the unvaccinated and the general population, and in Austria and Slovakia have even imposed a full closure. It was reported in Germany today that Olaf Schultz, who is expected to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor as early as next week, supports making the vaccine mandatory for all Germans, as well as banning the entry of non-vaccinated people into non-essential stores.

According to sources who spoke with the Reuters news agency, Schultz said in a meeting today with Merkel and the leaders of the various provinces of which Germany is composed – and whose approval is needed to carry out such a move – that he will support a multi-party initiative to make corona vaccines mandatory for Germans. February. In a statement issued later by the federal government and the various district governments, it was stated that it was agreed at this meeting to take further action, but it was emphasized that these are still proposals that are being considered. Neighboring Austria, which is also facing a severe outbreak and like Germany has a low immunization rate compared to Western Europe, has already announced that a vaccination obligation will be imposed by February.

The report on Schultz’s willingness to impose such severe restrictions comes when in the background there seems to be some stabilization in morbidity rates in Germany, although rates are still very high: according to data released today by German health authorities, the number of infections per 100,000 people dropped last week from 452.4 to 452.2 . This is the first time since the beginning of November that this figure has dropped. On the other hand, the daily number of infections increased slightly today compared to the figure recorded a week ago, and stood at 45,753 new infections. At the same time, more and more Corona patients continue to be hospitalized, and mortality rates remain very high: another 388 Corona patients died in Germany last day, the highest figure since early March. A total of 101,344 Corona carriers have died in Germany since the outbreak.

Similar data on stabilization in infection rates have also been reported in Austria and the Netherlands, but these rates are also stabilizing in very high numbers. In the Netherlands, for example, it was reported that last week a total of 155,152 new infections were diagnosed, a record number for an entire week, but the increase compared to the week before was relatively low, about 1%. The hospitals are overcrowded, and there are less than 100 available beds in the intensive care units. In the Netherlands, a partial closure was imposed in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, in which most shops, along with bars and restaurants, are required to close their doors as early as 5pm, and workers are required to work from home.

Authorities in Greece are also trying to encourage their citizens to get vaccinated, and today Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsutkis announced that from January 16, all people aged 60 and over will have to receive the shot. Anyone who refuses will be fined 100 euros. Mitsotakis said he does not yet know how this directive will be enforced. 100 euros, it should be noted, is a very significant amount for Greek adults, whose average pension is 730 euros a month.

At a cabinet meeting today, Mitsotakis said the decision was very difficult for him, but he was required to make it to protect the lives of some half a million older Greeks who have not yet been vaccinated. “This is the price to pay for health,” he said. Only 63% of Greece’s 11 million people have received all the required vaccine doses, and although the vaccination rate has risen in recent weeks, some 520,000 Greeks over the age of 60 have not yet been vaccinated.

“We are focusing our efforts on protecting our vulnerable citizens, and for this reason the vaccine will be mandatory from now on,” Mitsotkis said. “This decision will torment me, but I feel a heavy responsibility to stand by those who are at the highest level of risk, even if for a few fleeting moments they will feel uncomfortable.” In Greece, too, authorities earlier this month announced various restrictions on the movement of the unvaccinated, with infection records in the background as well. Since the onset of the plague, 931,832 people have been diagnosed in Greece, and 18,067 carriers have died.

In England, the new restrictions announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this weekend came into force, in order to prevent an outbreak of the Omicron strain, and from now on the British are required to wear masks on trains, buses, shops and hairdressers. The restriction was lifted just a few months ago as part of a move to lift all corona restrictions in the UK, but in other areas of the Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it has remained the same. Store owners and supermarkets in England today expressed concern that the new requirement would endanger their employees following possible clashes with customers who refuse to wear a mask, following which the police announced there that they would increase their presence in these places – to help enforce the directive.

Along with the new restrictions in the UK, which also include the obligation to perform a PCR test on anyone entering the kingdom and isolation until a negative result is obtained, Prime Minister Johnson now stresses the need for mass immunization to protect the British from the omicron. Earlier this week, health authorities announced that the booster would now be available to young people up to the age of 18, and tonight Johnson announced that in an attempt to speed up the vaccination campaign, 150 temporary complexes would be set up, which he said would emerge “like Christmas trees.” He said that these complexes will be operated by soldiers and volunteers. The goal, he added, is that all those eligible for the vaccine will receive all the required doses by the end of January. According to him, this is “the best protection against the omicron”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke today with Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schlenberg and outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrei Babish, calling on them to increase the rate of immunization in the third vaccine dose, as a very important means of protection against the virus. “There are many things we can learn from each other. Sharing knowledge and insights between different leaders is very effective,” Bennett told them. “The corona virus, and especially the new strain, pose a threat to each of our countries and to the entire world. When we work together on the issue, we become much more effective. Together we can protect our countries, our people and our economy.”



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