a omicron variable Announcing new restrictions on UK-based travelers, Prime Minister Jean Castix said on Saturday it was spreading across Europe “at lightning speed” and was set to become the dominant strain of coronavirus in France.
Britain has so far been the country hardest hit by the omicron variant in the region, with nearly 15,000 new confirmed cases on Friday.
Health authorities across the European continent are preparing for a new wave of infections.
This Saturday, the Netherlands became the country to adopt the strictest measures to try to contain the alternative. He issued a closure order that will last, in principle, until mid-January.
Other countries such as Germany and Ireland announced new restrictions on Friday in an effort to bring the situation under control.
Europe has recorded more than 89 million cases and 1.5 million deaths linked to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest data provided by the European Union.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told a group of journalists on Friday that his country “must prepare for a challenge” it had not yet seen.
The country’s health agency classified France, Norway and Denmark as “high risk” countries due to the high number of infections. Germany itself reported more than 42,000 new cases on Saturday, up from 50,000 new infections on Friday.
In Ireland, a third of new cases are due to the new variant. President Michel Martin said officials believed “a much higher infection rate than anything we’ve seen so far”.
The alerts came after the UK reported a record number of COVID-19 infections for the third consecutive day: more than 93,000 new cases, largely due to the omicron variant.
For its part, France has closed its borders to people leaving the UK for work or tourism, news that created huge queues at stations in the port of Dover in England and on the Eurostar train service in France before the ban came into effect.
Earlier this week, France announced that visitors to the European Union will be required to submit a negative covid-19 test upon arrival in the country, even those who have been vaccinated.
Hours before the new rules came into effect, Castex said the travel restrictions were part of a series of measures being taken to stem the wave of infections.
This includes reducing the interval between the second and third doses of the vaccine, as well as proof of full vaccination for entering restaurants and long-distance public transport.
In addition, all official year-end celebrations and fireworks display have been cancelled.
Castix added that the government will announce new measures next year to clear doubts about those who refuse to be vaccinated.
“It is unacceptable that the refusal of a few million French people to be vaccinated endangers the lives of an entire country,” he said.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday that between 7 and 10% of the country’s confirmed new infections are of the Omicron type.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands on Saturday decreed a new lockdown over Christmas.
Schools, bars, restaurants, non-essential businesses and other public places will be closed from Sunday – and the restrictions are expected to last until mid-January.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the restrictions were “inevitable”.
By January, Omicron is expected to become the dominant alternative in the country.
Since late November, the Netherlands has ordered bars, restaurants and most shops to close between 5pm and 5am.
The country recorded more than 15,400 infections on Friday, fewer than in previous days but much more than at any other time in the pandemic.
As the Dutch healthcare system is under pressure with the influx of COVID-19 patients, routine visits and all surgeries except for urgent ones have been postponed.
Ireland’s hotel industry said it will suffer from the new restrictions that will come into effect on Monday. The rules state that bars, restaurants, theaters and cinemas must close daily at 8pm.
Some Irish politicians have also criticized the measure, saying the new rules encourage more internal meetings.
Likewise, sports facilities must operate at 50% of their capacity or have a maximum capacity of 5,000 people.
Weddings are only allowed until midnight, maximum 100 guests.
In Ireland, there is a maximum of four families in home meetings.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the government will announce financial aid to support businesses affected by the new rules.
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