(TNS) Europe’s biggest countries are introducing more curbs to fight a surge in COVID-19 infections, from another lockdown in the Netherlands to stricter travel restrictions at the height of the holiday period.
The continent faces a critical week of decisions that could disrupt people’s Christmas and New Year’s plans as the spread of the highly-transmissible omicron strain slams already weary populations. At the same time, a debate continues to rage over whether the omicron variant produces milder illness than previous strains, and how to effectively combat the mutation.
Germany designated the U.K. as a virus variant area from Monday, the highest risk category, requiring incoming travelers to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status. France is considering health passes at work, and Israel added the U.S. and other countries to a list of banned travel destinations.
As omicron cases surge in the U.K., the country faces the politically perilous decision whether to tighten restrictions. Health Minister Sajid Javid has declined to rule out such a move before Christmas, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who previously called the end of curbs “irreversible” — would likely face further rebellion from his own ranks should such steps come into effect.
European nations have taken a varied approach to counter the winter COVID wave, but most have emphasized the importance of accelerating vaccination and booster campaigns. Much of their efforts are focused on not repeating the experience of the U.K., where total COVID infections rose by about 50% in a week to touch a record 93,000 on Friday.
In the U.S., President Joe Biden is planning to warn the nation on Tuesday of the perils of remaining unvaccinated, though his chief medical adviser said the prospect of further lockdowns in the U.S. are unlikely even as the omicron variant has now reached almost every state.