Europe's Covid red alert: mandatory vaccines, new lockdowns and surge in cases

Governments impose further restrictions in bid to curb record-breaking case rates

Millions of Europeans have been pushed into lockdown and confronted by mandatory vaccination as nations across the continent grapple with a fast-moving fourth wave of Covid-19.

Strict new measures have been ordered in a bid to prevent healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed in winter.

In its latest update on Europe, the World Health Organisation said Covid-19 cases had increased by 5 per cent since the previous week, making it the only region in the world to record an increase in that period.

Leaders will be closely monitoring the path taken by Austria, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown and announced vaccines will be compulsory for all adults from spring.

Here is a list of countries that are bolstering their efforts to tackle Covid-19:

Austria

On Monday, Austria's 8.9 million people will be ordered to stay at home and leave only when necessary when the new lockdown comes into effect.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the shutdown will initially last for 10 days, with the possibility of an extension.

He said it would run for a “maximum of 20 days”.

He also announced it would be a "requirement to get vaccinated" in Austria from February 1.

The rule, which will apply to all adults, could prove divisive, with Austria only the fifth nation to introduce such a measure and the first in Europe.

Germany

Leaders of some of the country's 16 states are considering introducing mandatory vaccinations for some professional groups such as medical staff and nursing home employees.

On Thursday, politicians in the Bundestag passed legislation aimed at curbing the rising infection rates.

Measures include requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative for the virus to enter communal workplaces. A similar rule will apply to public transport.

With cases surging, the country's healthcare system is threatening to buckle under the strain of the fourth wave.

Last week, a hospital in Bavaria was forced to fly a Covid-19 patient to Italy for treatment because it had exceeded its capacity.

The move marked a dramatic shift from the height of the pandemic in Europe when Germany’s healthcare system was hailed as a leader of the pack.

Italy, which was overwhelmed by Covid-19 in the early stages of the crisis, was forced transfer coronavirus patients to German hospitals for treatment as its own healthcare system buckled under the strain of the pandemic.

Hungary

Daily coronavirus infections reached a new high on Friday when 11,289 cases were reported.

The bleak figure came a day after authorities announced new restrictions, including making booster vaccinations compulsory for all healthcare workers and face masks mandatory in most indoor settings.

The Netherlands

The northern European nation recorded its highest daily number of cases on Thursday when 23,600 new infections were added to the tally.

The Dutch government has imposed a partial lockdown for three weeks, which includes restrictions for shops, sport and catering.

A booster vaccination campaign starting with the over-80s and hospital workers has been brought forward by two weeks.

Despite 80 per cent of over-12s being fully inoculated, the Netherlands has experienced a surge in infections among school-age children.

Figures published by the National Institute for Public Health this week showed infections had jumped by 76 per cent in the 10 to 14 category and by 85 per cent in 5 to 9 year olds.

Sweden

Sweden has said it will introduce vaccine certificates for events with more than 100 people from December 1.

People will have to show they have received two doses of a vaccine, tested negative in the previous 72 hours or have fully recovered from the virus.

Such a pass had previously been in place only for travel in Sweden.

Belgium

Belgian authorities have extended the use of face masks and rules that make working from home a requirement in a bid to stem the rise in Covid-19 cases.

The changes mean compulsory mask-wearing now applies to children aged 10 and over, having applied to children over 12 previously.

The government also reinforced rules in nightclubs, restaurants and bars, and coronavirus test results would need to be added to the mandatory vaccine certificate in many cases.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said “the alarm signals are flashing red”.

He said the new measures were necessary to stave off further lockdowns.

Greece

Greece has joined several European countries in imposing more restrictions on those unvaccinated against the virus.

Under new rules due to come into effect on Monday, unvaccinated people will be barred from indoor spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms, even if they test negative for Covid-19, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

The rule will be altered for unvaccinated people wishing to enter a church, They will be allowed in after showing a negative test result.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Mitsotakis urged Greeks to "get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated".

Greece has fully vaccinated about 62 per cent of its population of about 11 million. Authorities had hoped for a rate of about 70 per cent by autumn.

Under the new rules in Greece, vaccination certificates of those over 60 will be valid for seven months after being issued, in an effort to encourage that age group to get a "booster" shot.

Czech Republic

The Czech government approved new coronavirus restrictions specifically aimed at unvaccinated people as it grapples with a record surge in infections.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said most unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to show negative coronavirus test results to attend public events, go to bars and restaurants, visit hairdressers, museums or use hotels.

Only people who are vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid-19 will remain eligible.

There are exceptions for 12 to 18 year olds, people whose medical condition does not allow vaccination and people who have received one vaccine.

The announcement came after the Czech daily tally soared to 22,511 new cases on Tuesday, eclipsing the previous record set on January 7 by almost 5,000 and nearly 8,000 more than the previous week.

Slovakia

People who have not been vaccinated will be banned from all non-essential stores and shopping malls from Monday.

They will not be allowed to attend any public events and gatherings and will be required to test twice a week to go to work.

Only in the hardest hit parts of the country, gyms, restaurants and hotels will be closed for all. The rules are part of measures aimed at tackling the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger called the measures “a lockdown for the unvaccinated”. They should be in place for three weeks but “we will react promptly if we can see the restrictions are not effective”, he said.

Slovakia reported a new high of 8,342 coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

Italy

Police in Italy staged a nationwide operation to target anti-vaxxers, searching the homes of dozens of people.

Forty-six homes of people suspected of being members of an extremist group were raided by officers.

Charges include instigation to interrupt public services and criminal association.

Journalists, politicians and Italian doctors have said they have received threats from anti-vaxxers.

Like many European countries, Italy requires people to show their Green Pass to dine indoors, visit museums and cinemas and for long-distance public transport.

The pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or having recovered from Covid-19.

Protests have grown more acute after Italy last month became the first Western country where the pass is required to enter workplaces.

Updated: November 19th 2021, 2:07 PM
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