Europe faces Covid-19 freeze

New restrictions and vaccine mandates are expected to spread across Europe after a new surge in Covid-19 cases



Empty streets in Vienna, where a surge in Covid-19 cases resulted in a new lockdown from Monday. — AP
Empty streets in Vienna, where a surge in Covid-19 cases resulted in a new lockdown from Monday. — AP

By Agencies

Published: Tue 23 Nov 2021, 1:53 AM

Austria on Monday became the first country in western Europe to reimpose lockdown since vaccines were rolled out, shutting non-essential shops, bars and cafes as surging caseloads raised the spectre of a second straight winter in deep freeze for the continent.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia banned unvaccinated people from hotels, pubs, hairdressers and most public events from Monday after Covid-19 cases filled hospital intensive-care wards, and were mulling harsher steps to stem the resurgent pandemic.

Germany will also need tighter restrictions to control a record-setting wave of infections, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying, remarks that erased gains on European stock markets and sent bond yields down.

With Europe once again the epicentre of the global pandemic that first prompted lockdowns in March 2020, new restrictions and vaccine mandates are expected to spread nearly two years after the first Covid-19 case was identified in China.

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“We are in a highly dramatic situation. What is in place now is not sufficient,” Merkel told leaders of her conservative CDU party in a meeting.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, urgently calling on people to get vaccinated, said he was certain that by the end of the winter everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, recovered or dead”.

The Austrian government also announced it will make it compulsory to get inoculated as of February 1. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccinations.

Eastern European countries where vaccination rates are even lower have been experiencing some of the highest death tolls per capita in the world, with hospitals becoming overrun in countries such as Bulgaria and Romania.

In cities across the Netherlands, riots broke out as police clashed with mobs of angry youths who set fires and threw rocks to protest at Covid-19 restrictions. More than 100 people were arrested during three nights of violence, which saw police open fire at rioters in Rotterdam on Friday.

Police and protesters clashed in the streets of Brussels on Sunday, with officers firing water cannon and teargas at demonstrators throwing rocks and smoke bombs.

In France, proof of vaccination or a recent negative test is required to go to restaurants and cinemas. President Emmanuel Macron said last week more lockdowns were not needed.


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