Omicron in Europe: 100,000 infected a day in the UK, Spain returns to masks

Britain announced yesterday (Wednesday) 106,122 new infections in Corona per day – the highest figure since the beginning of the epidemic, and the first time that the number of infections per day exceeds 100,000. On Tuesday, the number of new infections was 90,629. Also, 140 corona patients died in the UK yesterday compared to 172 the day before yesterday.

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In the past week, following the spread of the omicron strain that is considered particularly contagious, there has been a nearly 60% increase in the number of people infected in the UK. To curb the morbidity, ahead of Christmas this weekend, the government renewed the duty to wear masks in shops and ordered residents to present immunization certificates at the entrance to nightclubs, and other crowded places. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, stated on Tuesday that he does not intend to impose new restrictions before Christmas – but may do so after the holiday.

Johnson, who has come under heavy criticism for handling the crisis and dropping in polls, said there is still uncertainty about the congestion expected in hospitals and that it is not clear how dangerous the new variant is. Meanwhile, Britain is trying to increase the rate of booster shots, and so far about half of the British have received the dose. Against the background of the peak in the number of infected, the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 was approved yesterday.

On Tuesday, hospitals in the UK had 195 carriers of the omicron strain. So far, 18 Britons have died from the variant. The number of corona patients in UK hospitals stood at 8,008 on Tuesday. In January, shortly after the UK vaccination campaign launched, more than 38,000 Corona patients were hospitalized.

Many sectors of the economy suffer from a shortage of manpower – as a result of workers being infected in Corona and entering isolation. UK hospitals have warned that the shortage could jeopardize the safety of patients. Scientists fear that the real danger of the omicron – which is probably not as deadly as the Delta – is huge congestion in hospitals. To make it easier for hospitals and businesses, the government said yesterday that the isolation period of those infected who would do two corona tests that came out negative, day after day, would be shortened from ten to seven days.

The World Health Organization estimated yesterday that in early 2022 the omicron will become the most common variant of the corona in Europe – and that only in three or four weeks will it become clear how dangerous it is. At the moment it seems that the omicron is not as dangerous as the Delta variant – but it is probably contagious from it. This is why despite vaccination campaigns and the decline in morbidity, many countries do not take risks and impose new restrictions.

In Spain, close to 80% of the population is vaccinated against Corona, and the booster operation in the country is considered a success and is gaining momentum. Unlike other countries in Europe – which are mainly in the west and center of the continent – the wave of morbidity that spread on the continent in the autumn months passed over Spain. However, due to the spread of the omicron, infection records were also recorded in Spain, and on Tuesday close to 50,000 infections were reported in the country. The number of patients in hospitals – including in intensive care units – is low compared to previous waves.

The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, announced last night that following the spread of the Omicron Spain will oblige its citizens to wear masks even in open areas. Sanchez met with regional prime ministers in Spain, calling on them to cooperate in enforcing restrictions against the Omicron. Last week, the new variant was responsible for almost half of the new infections in Spain – compared to only 3% the week before. Sanchez tried to reassure the Spaniards and told them: “Do not worry, the families will be able to celebrate Christmas.”

Until now, Spaniards were only required to wear masks in enclosed spaces. Despite this, many citizens prefer not to take risks and take to the streets with masks – even though this directive was repealed in June.

Belgium decided last night to impose new restrictions to curb the Omicron. In contrast to its neighbor the Netherlands – where a tight national closure began this week – Belgian restrictions are more focused: from next Sunday, theaters, cinemas and concert halls will be closed. Sporting events will be held without an audience and the number of customers who will be allowed to enter the stores at the same time will be limited to only two. Belgium will not ban weddings and funerals, and will allow its citizens to continue to visit museums and do sports even indoors.

Under the current restrictions, pubs and restaurants in Belgium may be open until 23:00. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croix has said restrictions on the country over the past three weeks have helped reduce the number of infections – especially in the Delta variant – since the end of November. “But despite some positive data, it’s clear there is cause for concern. There is a ‘pirate ship’ off the coast – and it is the Omicron,” the prime minister said. He noted that the Omicron is responsible for 30% of new infections in Belgium – compared to only 10% last Friday. De Crowe added that the new restrictions are necessary to ensure students return to schools at the end of the January 10 holiday.

The rate of infection in Belgium was one of the highest in the world at the beginning of the month. However, thanks to its successful vaccination campaign, the mortality rate from Corona in Belgium is lower than the average in the rest of the EU. Following the restrictions that came into effect three weeks ago (including the early closure of businesses), the number of people infected daily dropped by 36% in the past week and reached about 8,300, in a country with about 11 million inhabitants.

The number of people infected with corona in France reached 84,272 yesterday – close to the country’s peak in November 2020, which stood at almost 87,000. French Health Minister Olivia Varane said yesterday that following the omicron it is possible that by the end of the month the number of verified in France will reach more than 100,000 a day.

Against the backdrop of the surge in the number of infected and the omicron panic, France yesterday began vaccinating children aged five to 11. Varan said: “There is one thing for sure – the omicron is highly contagious. It will spread, and will not pity any country.” The French health minister stressed that at present the government is not expected to announce new Corona restrictions.



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