Mask wearing 'could save 160,000 European lives' says expert
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The latest Covid variant entered circulation in late November and quickly found a perch in the UK. Omicron has since taken hold in a scattering of other nations, boosting infection averages via community transmission. European countries are among those reporting the highest, and their leaders have taken decisive action.
Which European countries have imposed Covid restrictions?
Omicron has Europe in a vice grip and it is now tightening, according to health officials.
Hans Kluge, head of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) European HQ, said 38 of the 53 countries in its jurisdiction have Omicron cases.
He named three – the UK, Denmark and Portugal – where it is now the dominant strain.
Without fast action, he added, it could prompt “another storm” on the continent.
Dr Kluge urged government agencies to prepare response systems for “a significant surge”.
Some have done just that and quickly sprung into action with new Covid measures.
They have stepped up vaccine programmes, reintroduced social curbs and shuttered hospitality settings ahead of Christmas.
Sweden’s first Omicron-era Covid rules spring into action from today and primarily target hospitality.
Bars, restaurants and cafes can now only serve seated guests.
Swedish authorities have asked people to work from home as the country’s health system starts feeling the strain.
Much like the UK, France is leaning on vaccines for Omicron protection.
On Wednesday, health officials expanded the programme to cover young children between five and 11.
They have also clamped down on travel to the UK, where Omicron has boosted daily case rates to 90,000 or more and banned trips for work or tourism purposes.
Finland has called for restrictions from Christmas Eve this year, with bars closed from 10pm on December 24.
They can reopen from December 28 but with limited seating and a 6pm curfew.
Travellers entering the country from outside the Schengen Zone must show a negative Covid test.
Germans are on the receiving end of some of the most far-reaching restrictions in Europe.
Newly minted Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared Coronavirus would “not take a Christmas break” on Tuesday and promptly announced that limits would return from December 28.
These will include a gatherings limit of 10, closed nightclubs and football matches behind closed doors.
In Portugal, where Omicron is the dominant Covid strain, officials have planned similar measures to Germany on the horizon.
The country will add them slightly sooner, with bars and nightclubs shut from December 26 and outdoor gatherings limited to 10.
Officials have also asked people to work from home until January 9, 2022.
Spanish authorities are toying with new restrictions, as the country is one of the most infected in Europe.
Health officials reported nearly 50,000 new infections on Tuesday.
Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister, will discuss potential new restrictions with his regional counterparts.
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