Germany will impose drastic restrictions on the unvaccinated, as the world worries about the Omicron variant, which risks becoming the majority in Europe by “the very next few months”. Brussels mentions the vaccination obligation.
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday announced a tightening of restrictions on people not vaccinated against Covid-19, imposing virtual confinement on them, without access to non-essential shops, restaurants, places of culture or leisure. They will also now have to limit their contact, at home or away, to a maximum of two other people from another household.
These new measures were taken after a meeting with his successor, Olaf Scholz, and the leaders of the 16 regions of the country. A draft law on compulsory vaccination, which Mr Scholz is in favor of, will be submitted to parliament for entry into force in February or March.
In Norway, the government on Thursday introduced new health restrictions in Oslo and its region after the appearance of a suspected outbreak of the variant among dozens of people yet all vaccinated, during a Christmas meal.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based in Stockholm, for its part indicated that “preliminary data suggest a substantial advantage” of the new variant over the hitherto dominant Delta variant.
Based on these mathematical models, “Omicron could cause more than half of infections caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the European Union within the next few months,” the agency warned on Thursday.
A discussion “must be conducted” on the vaccination obligation in EU member states, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
Because for the moment, underlined in Geneva the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the insufficiency of the vaccine coverage against the Covid and that of the level of screening constitute a mixture “toxic “.
It is “a perfect recipe for variants to reproduce and amplify”, he warned, stressing that the end of the pandemic is “a matter of choice”.
In South Africa, where the identification of the Omicron variant was announced last week, and where less than a quarter of the population is vaccinated, authorities have described to Parliament an “exponential” spread of the virus. The new variant, clearly very contagious, is already dominant.
According to a researcher from the South African National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), antibodies from a first infection with Covid-19 do not prevent catching the disease again with the Omicron variant.
Following in the footsteps of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres denounced the border closures, calling them a form of “apartheid” against an insufficiently vaccinated Africa.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also said the priority remained to “ensure that vaccines are produced and distributed as quickly as possible throughout the world”.
The developed countries of the G20 have spent 10,000 billion dollars to protect their economy during the crisis, while vaccinating the planet would only cost 50 billion, lamented Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the OECD.
The Omicron variant has been spotted on all continents, especially in Europe, already faced before its appearance with a strong rebound in the epidemic. After many other countries, Ireland, Iceland, India have in turn announced their first case. France has confirmed a first case on its metropolitan soil. In Norway, around fifty cases of the Omicron variant are feared after a Christmas meal.
The States of the Old Continent have decided to tighten again the health restrictions: border controls, ban on travel to southern Africa, compulsory mask in transport and shops in the United Kingdom, recommendation to vaccinate vulnerable children in France, etc.
Various laboratories, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax, have expressed confidence in their ability to create a new vaccine against Omicron. Russia has also announced that it is working on a version of its “Sputnik V” specifically targeting this variant.
Never has a variant of Covid-19 caused so much concern since the emergence of Delta, currently dominant and already very contagious.
The WHO considers “high” the “probability that Omicron spreads globally”, even if many unknowns remain: contagiousness, effectiveness of existing vaccines, severity of symptoms.
Reassuringly, to date, no deaths associated with Omicron have been reported.
This article was published automatically. Sources: ats / afp