France, Denmark, Ireland announce new restrictions over omicron fears

AFP , AP , Saturday 18 Dec 2021

The new corona mutant "Omicron" prompted European governments to announce new restrictions to combat its spread.

File photo: Paris municipal authorities announced  with regret that we will have to cancel all the f
File photo: Paris municipal authorities announced with regret that we will have to cancel all the festivities planned on the Champs Elysees on December 31 . AFP

The French government banned public concerts and fireworks displays at New Year's celebrations, and called people to avoid large gatherings and to limit the number of family members congregating at Christmas.

"The fifth wave is here and it is here in full force,'' French Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference, adding that the fast-spreading omicron variant is expected to dominate infections in France at the start of January.

With a daily average of 50,704 infections over the last week and 60,866 on Thursday alone, the prime minister also warned people who still refuse to get vaccinated, without a credible health reason.

"While we gave a lot of time to those who have hesitated and had doubts, we will reinforce incentives for vaccination in January because it is not acceptable that the refusal of a few million people to get vaccinated puts an entire country at risk'' Castex said.

Meanwhile, the Danish government announced Friday it would close cinemas, theatres and concert halls and restrict restaurant opening hours over a record number of daily Covid-19 cases, accelerated by the Omicron variant.

The government also plans to close other gathering places such as amusement parks and museums.

"Theatres, cinemas and concert halls, they will have to close," Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a news conference.

The measures will come into force on Sunday morning for four weeks, the government said.

This is a sharp turnaround for the Nordic country, which had lifted all restrictions on September 10, before reintroducing a coronapass at the beginning of November and then announcing a first round of restrictions last week.

Denmark is among those countries with the highest numbers of confirmed Omicron cases.

More than 2,500 cases of the reportedly more transmissible variant have been recorded in the last 24 hours.

In Ireland, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced on Friday new restrictions, as bars and restaurants will close from 8:00 pm from Sunday until January 30 in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Martin also announced that indoor and outdoor events held earlier than 8 pm would be limited to 50 percent capacity, while weddings will be allowed a maximum of 100 guests.

*This story was compiled by Ahram Online

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