Several European nations are introducing new coronavirus restrictions as they try to tackle outbreaks of the Omicron mutation.
France has banned New Year parties, Ireland imposed a curfew on restaurants and Germany announced travel restrictions from France and Denmark, which itself closed entertainment venues.
“The fifth wave is here and it is here in full force,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
He also said that major public parties and fireworks will be banned on New Year's Eve and recommended that people, even if vaccinated, take a self-test before coming together for end-of-year parties.
France will also reduce the interval between the second and third doses of vaccine from five to four months from January, Mr Castex said.
He said Omicron was spreading like “lightning” in Europe and it would become the dominant strain in France in early 2022.
“I’m appealing to everyone’s responsibility to find other ways to celebrate than large gatherings and avoiding moments of conviviality,” Mr Castex said.
Regional prefects will ban spontaneous parties and ask cities to hold off on fireworks and other celebrations, he said.
“I understand the frustration to limit yourselves in such festive moments, but we owe that to our healthcare personnel,” Mr Castex said.
France will also increase the pressure on people to be vaccinated. Only immunised people will be able to receive a “health pass” that gives them access to restaurants, medical facilities and cultural venues, meaning a negative Covid test will not be sufficient.
“It’s not admissible that a minority of French people who refuse to get vaccinated puts at risk the life of a whole country and the daily life of a large majority of French people who’ve played ball since the beginning of this pandemic,” Mr Castex said.
Germany on Friday designated France and Denmark as high-risk zones for the transmission of coronavirus and will impose a quarantine on unvaccinated travellers from the two countries.
The requirement will be imposed from Sunday and will also apply to travellers from Norway, Lebanon and Andorra. Those who are unvaccinated or who have not recovered from the virus will be subject to quarantine with the possibility of testing on day five.
“We must prepare for a challenge that we have not yet had in this form,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said.
Irish restaurants and entertainment venues will close at 8pm from Monday, with the measure extended until January 30 under government plans to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Theatres, sport grounds, cinemas and other entertainment venues will be included in the curfew, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
The maximum capacity will be cut to the lesser of 50 per cent or 5,000 people for outdoor events and 50 per cent or 1,000 people for indoor events.
“Left unchecked, this new strain will represent a very significant threat to hospital and critical care, but also a threat to all society and the economy,” Mr Martin said.
Denmark announced it was closing entertainment venues including amusement parks and museums in response to a rise in Covid-19 cases that experts said was faster than expected.
In the Netherlands, health experts are advising a strict lockdown, Dutch media reported on Friday, days after a partial lockdown was extended into January.