Covid-19 and Vaccine News: Live Updates

Credit…Christian Mang / Reuters

Cities across Germany braced for major protests against coronavirus restrictions on Monday, and a strict new vaccine requirement took effect in Italy as governments across Europe continued to tighten their policies. rules in a fight to contain the Omicron variant.

Developments in two countries where cases are increasing rapidly – up 91% in the past two weeks in Germany and more than 300 percent in the same period in Italy – sum up tensions in European countries where executives double vaccinations and Covid boosters. , starting to make them all except mandatory.

More than 69% of people in the European Union have been fully vaccinated, according to official data, and the figures are higher in the western part of the bloc, where Italy has vaccinated 75% and Germany 72%. With studies showing that vaccines offer protection against serious illness and death from Omicron and other variants, governments increasingly view those who are not vaccinated as a barrier to avoiding more painful measures, such as that the return to confinement.

The challenge was expressed in harsh language last week by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said in a newspaper interview that he wanted to ‘piss off’ the millions of his compatriots who refused the shots by banning them from shooting. ‘access to public spaces. On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets to oppose a government proposal that would effectively ban unvaccinated people from public places.

Vaccine skeptics have also flocked to Vienna in large numbers, where Covid injections will be mandatory for the entire adult population from next month.

In Germany, where a strident anti-vaccination movement has ties to the far right, social restrictions and rules that exclude the unvaccinated from much of public life sparked large protests on Monday, a day that has a particular resonance since the weekly demonstration marches helped bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched through towns and villages across the country, with some demonstrations turning violent.

Last Monday, in the southwest of the state of Baden-Württemberg, some 50,000 people took part in 170 marches. In the eastern state of Thuringia, the city police of Sömmerda used tear gas against a group of protesters. In Lichtenstein, a town in neighboring Saxony, 14 police officers were injured in an attack by demonstrators, one suffering from a bite and another having to repel an assailant who had seized the gun from the ‘officer.

Newly-elected Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Germans to obey the restrictions and get vaccinated, and he used a New Year’s speech to rebut misinformation that the shots were dangerous. German lawmakers are expected to start discussing legislation soon that would make vaccinations mandatory across the country, but some members of Mr Scholz’s coalition government are wary of a possible backlash.

In Italy, where opposition to vaccines is less fierce, a rule goes into effect on Monday that requires all public and private sector employees aged 50 and over to be vaccinated against Covid or be able to prove that they are. recovered from illness. Those who fail to meet the requirement by February 1 could be suspended from work, amid the latest restrictions introduced by the government of one of Europe’s worst-hit countries to curb the surge in infections and mitigate the impact on hospitals.

With the Omicron variant fueling a doubling in the rate of cases over the past week, the Italian government has imposed the restriction on older workers because they are more likely to contract serious illness. Until now, these employees could take frequent PCR tests which, if negative, allowed them access to their workplace.

Other new measures coming into effect Monday in Italy ban unvaccinated people from banks, offices, public transport, outdoor restaurants, hotels, ski lifts and many other places.

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