Germany must decide this Thursday on new restrictions, including possible closings of bars and other public places, a new turn of the screw before a vaccine obligation which is now consensus.
Compulsory vaccination is already planned in Austria and other countries are considering it, including South Africa, but resistance is strong.
A discussion “must be conducted” on the subject in EU member states, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference.
Because for the moment, underlined in Geneva the director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the insufficiency of the vaccine coverage against the Covid-19 and that of the level of screening constitute a “toxic” mixture.
“Matter of choice”
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, but where less than a quarter of the inhabitants are vaccinated, health authorities described to Parliament an “exponential” spread of the virus. The new variant, clearly very contagious, is already dominant.
Faced with the Omicron variant, border closures are “deeply unjust, punitive and ineffective”, he said, denouncing a form of “apartheid” with regard to Africa and calling for the development of tests.
Faced with “the threat to economic recovery”, which Omicron represents, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also said on Wednesday that the priority remained to “ensure that vaccines are produced and distributed as much as possible. quickly possible across 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 new strain has been spotted on all continents, but Europe, already facing a strong rebound in the epidemic before its appearance, seems the most affected: after many other countries, Norway announced its first four cases on Wednesday , all on returnees from South Africa.
The States of the Old Continent are therefore once again tightening 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.
Even in Portugal, a model student of Europe for the vaccination rate (85%), the population must again from Wednesday wear the mask in closed places and present a health pass and a new vaccination campaign has started.
Denmark, which like other countries in Europe is facing a strong epidemic rebound and recorded the record number of more than 4,500 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, reintroduced a mandatory test for travelers from Doha and Dubai, after the detection of a case of the new variant in a traveler returning from Qatar.
“Viruses without borders”
In the United States, which announced Wednesday that it had detected a first case of the variant, stricter test conditions for travelers on arrival, or even the establishment of a quarantine, are under study, according to health officials . These measures could be officially announced this Thursday, December 2, 2021 by US President Joe Biden.
In Asia, Japan, now closed to foreigners, has identified two cases of contamination by Omicron and on Wednesday asked airlines to suspend new reservations to its territory for a month. South Korea has announced its first five cases and tightened travel restrictions.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, also recorded its first three cases, people returning from South Africa, just like the first three cases spotted in Brazil.
A first case was also reported in Saudi Arabia – in a Saudi returned from North Africa – as well as in the United Arab Emirates.
Various manufacturers, 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 will spread 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.
The Covid-19 has killed at least 5,214,847 people worldwide since its appearance in late 2019 in China, according to an AFP count on Wednesday.