Omicron variant: the Netherlands in “containment” from Sunday

« Confinement » in the Netherlands, alert procedure triggered in London, New Year’s fireworks canceled on the Champs-Elysées in Paris: one week before Christmas, restrictions are multiplying across the world, Saturday, December 18, in the face of the very rapid spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Just a month after its identification in South Africa, Omicron has already been detected in nearly 80 countries and is making rapid progress in Europe, where it could become dominant by mid-January, according to the European Commission.

  • The Netherlands resign itself to confinement

The Netherlands will be placed, from Sunday, December 19, in confinement, for the Christmas holiday period, in an attempt to stop a sharp increase in cases of the Omicron variant, announced the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, during ‘a press conference on Saturday evening. “I’m here tonight in a dark mood. To sum it up in one sentence, the Netherlands will return to containment from tomorrow ”, Mr Rutte said. This confinement will last at least until January 14.

“It’s inevitable with the fifth wave and with Omicron spreading even faster than we had feared. We must intervene now as a precaution ”, continued the head of government.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers The Omicron variant is more resistant to the vaccine but is believed to be less severe

All non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, concert halls, museums and theaters must therefore close their doors from Sunday to January 14, while schools – which had anticipated the start of the Christmas holidays by a week. – will remain closed at least until January 9. At the same time, the number of guests that people are allowed to receive in their homes is reduced from four to two, except for Christmas Day, December 25. “Funerals and weddings will be possible under certain conditions”, detailed Mr. Rutte.

On Friday, the National Institute of Public Health identified 15,433 new Covid-19 contaminations in the country, a figure down by around 25% compared to the previous week but still above the peaks recorded in previous waves . This new wave of contamination caused by the Omicron variant could increase the pressure on the health system when hospitals have already been forced to postpone most non-emergency operations to be able to welcome patients with Covid-19.

  • Germany reduces entry conditions to its territory

The German authorities announced, on Saturday evening, the classification of the United Kingdom in the category of countries hit by the Covid-19 pandemic most at risk, which will lead to many travel restrictions. She said people arriving from this country should undergo a two-week quarantine in Germany, including those vaccinated or cured of Covid-19.

“The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland are very strongly affected by Covid 19. A new variant, very contagious, has also been observed” and this is why these territories, including the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, are placed, initially for fourteen days, in the category of areas at very high risk in connection with the coronavirus, specified the German Foreign Ministry on its website.

In addition to the quarantine measure, only German nationals or foreigners residing in Germany will be allowed to come to the country from the UK. The rule applies to all means of transport, plane, train or boat. In addition, a PCR test will be required for everyone traveling to Germany.

Several other European countries, such as France, have already taken steps to limit the entry into their soil of travelers from the United Kingdom. The German health watch institute has already placed France and Denmark among the contamination zones at “High risk”, or one level below.

  • Alert procedure in London

In London, where the Omicron variant is already dominant, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared himself “Immensely concerned” and triggered an alert procedure involving a coordinated response from the public services. This device had already been activated on January 8, 2021, at the height of the pandemic, when London hospitals were threatened with being overwhelmed.

According to several British media, the government plans to ban indoor gatherings after Christmas for two weeks in an attempt to break the wave of contamination.

Read also Omicron variant: UK government measures adopted, despite broad Conservative rebellion

Brooklyn restaurants are closing one after another due to a surge in contamination, queues to get tested are growing: New York fears it will relive the nightmare of 2020, when the city was the world’s epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Saturday evening, New York State, the fourth most populous in the country with some 20 million inhabitants, announced for the second day in a row a record of Covid-19 cases, with nearly 22,000 contaminations.

In the theater and musical district of Broadway, cancellations of performances are increasing because of cases within the troops. Last victim Friday night: the next four Rockettes shows at Radio City Music Hall were canceled due to “Growing difficulties of the pandemic”, depending on production. As for the musical Hamilton, it was canceled without warning, Thursday evening. Saturday night at Manhattan’s Comcast Building, the famous entertainment show Saturday Night Live announced that it would be shot without an audience and with a small crew.

The variant “Omicron has arrived”, noted the mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio. “We have to admit it: it is moving very fast and we have to be faster”, declared the democratic councilor on CNN on Friday, a few days before his handover on 1is January with his successor, Eric Adams.

Mr. de Blasio imposed compulsory vaccination on municipal officials, as well as from December 27, in principle, on the entire private sector, ie 184,000 businesses and businesses. But nothing says Mr. Adams will enforce this decision.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Covid-19: in New York, children must be vaccinated to go to restaurants or play school sport

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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Omicron variant: the Netherlands in “containment” from Sunday

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