Europe eyes COVID-19 restrictions as Omicron risk soars
European countries are bracing to impose further travel and social restrictions this weekend in an effort to stem fast rising cases of COVID-19, just as a major study by Imperial College London warned that new variant Omicron was 5.4 times more likely to re-infect people than Delta. The new findings add urgency to countries’ efforts to speed up vaccination booster campaigns. Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark were all moving toward further restrictions, following the footsteps of France, which closed its borders this week to most non-resident Britons. Since the coronavirus emerged in China almost two years ago, more than 274 million cases have been reported and more than 5,360,000 people have died of COVID-19 globally.
UK reports record 93,045 cases
Britain reported record infections for the third consecutive day on Friday with a rise to 93,045 new cases fuelled by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the virus. The government will hold an emergency committee meeting on Omicron during the weekend with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Top civil servant quits No 10 party probe
Meanwhile, Simon Case, the man apopointed to investigate whether British government officials broke lockdown rules last Christmas, has stepped down from the role. His inquiry was focusing on events in Downing Street on three occasions and one at the education department.The resignation followed accusations that his department’s office held its own gathering.
Italy reports 28,632 cases, 120 deaths
Italian health authprities have registed a spike in COVID cases – the highest since the end of November 2020 and deaths were 822. The number of hospitalisations and people in intensive care is now on the rise with a 4.27% positivity rate – an increase from the 3.6% reported on Thursday. Over 920 patients are in intensive care.
NY registers more than 21,000 cases
Friday’s 21,000 new cases surpass the state’s previous peak last January. The US has notched the world’s highest number of coronavirus cases – 51,610,281 –and the highest amount of deaths at 826,719. Meanwhile, the US Marine Corps has dismissed 103 soldiers following their refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19. About 95% of the marines on duty are vaccinated, but the US military is still evaluating the requests for exemption received.
Switzerland: proof of vaccination now needed
Switzerland will, as of Monday and until January 24, expand the requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus in order to access indoor venues like restaurants. Discos and bars will require a negative test.
Denmark imposes new restrictions
With the new variant accounting for a fifth of daily cases, the Danish government proposed closing theatres, cinemas, entertainment parks and conference centres, as well as limiting large crowds in stores and shops. Denmark logged almost 3,000 Omicron infections in 24 – doubling the previous day’s count – while overall daily infections broke another record.
Ireland considers ‘unpopular’ measures
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that in the face of a “cruel virus”, his government had no choice but to consider unpopular measures including early closing times for bars and restaurants. The government met on Friday to discuss further possible measures.
European Security: US says ‘some Russian proposals unacceptable’
A senior US executive has said that the Biden administration was ready to discuss Moscow’s proposals on European security “but there are some things in their document that the Russians know are unacceptable”. He added they should respond to the Kremlin “next week with a more concrete proposal” on the talks after consulting their European allies. The same official warned that in the event of “further Russian aggression” against Ukraine, Moscow would suffer “massive consequences and pay a high price”. Russia had sent a substantial ‘peace treaty’ to the US and NATO in which it articulates its requests to ease tensions in Eastern Europe. Among the proposed measures is the creation of a “hotline” between Moscow and NATO, the promise by the US not to expand NATO further and to not to accept within it countries which were part of the former Soviet Union. Presenting the demands, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia and the West must start a clean sheet in rebuilding relations. He said Russia was not willing to put up with the current situation any more.
Fake Italian gynaecologist snares 400 women
Italian police on Friday searched the house of suspected serial sexual predator believed to have posed as a gynaecologist to persuade over 400 women throughout Italy to undergo vaginal exams via weblink. Police in Bari seized several smartphones and memory cards from the 40-year old, after wiretapping his calls following complaints from multiple victims. The man is alleged to have called women who had undergone swabs at clinics across the country, to tell them they had been diagnosed with “several vaginal infections” and then persuaded them to undergo online gynaecological examinations.
Football: French Cup match abandoned…again!
A French Cup match between Paris FC and Olympique Lyon was abandoned following crowd trouble. Supporters appeared to be fighting each other with flares and some of them went onto the Stade Charlety pitch at half-time with the game tied at 1-1. Lyon were penalised one point in Ligue 1 last month after their home match against Olympique de Marseille was abandoned after a player had been hit by a bottle thrown from the stands.