Monday, February 6, 2023

Omicron and Delta Spell Return Unpopular Restrictions

PARIS (NWN) – Greeks over 60 who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus could face a monthly fine of more than a quarter of their minimum pension – a tough policy that the country’s politicians say will cost votes but save lives.

Weekly protests in the Netherlands over the 5:00 pm quarantine and other new restrictions have escalated to violence, despite the overwhelming majority accepting the rules.

On Thursday, the Israeli government stopped using controversial phone-tracking technology to track possible cases of the novel coronavirus after public outrage.

With the COVID-19 delta variant causing a rise in cases in Europe and growing concerns about the omicron variant, governments around the world are weighing new measures for populations tired of hearing about restrictions and vaccines.

It is a thorny calculation, complicated by the prospect of backlash, heightened social divisions and, for many politicians, the fear of being dismissed from office.

“I know the frustration we all have with this omicron option, the feeling of exhaustion that we could go through over and over again,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday, two days after the government announced that masks will again become mandatory. in shops and on public transport and required all visitors from overseas to be tested for COVID-19 and be quarantined. “We are trying to maintain a balanced and proportionate approach.”

New restrictions, or variations on old ones, are popping up around the world, especially in Europe, where leaders are struggling to explain what looks like an unfulfilled promise: mass vaccinations will spell the end of many hated restrictions.

“People need normality. They need families, they need to see people who are obviously safe, socially distancing, but I really think that this Christmas is enough for people, ”said Belinda Storey, who runs a counter at the Christmas market in Nottingham, England.

In the Netherlands, where isolation was imposed last week, mounted police patrol the streets to disperse demonstrations. But most of the people seemed resigned to throwing themselves off on business and heading home.

“The only thing we can do is listen to the rules, follow them and hope it doesn’t get worse. It’s not a problem for me. I am a nurse. I know how people get sick, ”said Wilma van Kampen.

Huburt Bruhls, who as mayor of the Dutch city of Nijmegen banned the protest last weekend, said he sympathizes with the disappointment but is willing to abide by national rules.

“There has been a lot of frustration with the consequences of vaccination. Everybody tried, we had one of the highest vaccination rates and it wasn’t enough. More infections than ever. I myself was a little disappointed, but we have to look to the future, ”he said.

READ MORE: What we know what you can do to protect yourself from the omicron

In Greece, residents over the age of 60 face a fine of € 100 (US $ 113) per month if they do not get vaccinated. Fines will be added to tax invoices in January. About 17% of Greeks over 60 are unvaccinated despite various attempts to induce them to get vaccinated, and nine out of ten Greeks who die from COVID-19 are over 60.

“I don’t care if this measure will cost me extra votes in the elections,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday after lawmakers passed the measure. “I am convinced that we are doing the right thing, and I am convinced that this policy will save lives.”

Using a carrot instead of a stick, the Slovak government is proposing to give people over 60 a bonus of € 500 ($ 568) for vaccinations.

In Israel this week, the government briefly resumed the use of phone-monitoring technology to track contacts of people who have confirmed the omicron variant, but stopped using it on Thursday.

“From the outset, I noted that the use of this tool would be limited and concise – for a few days to get urgent information to stop a new, unknown option from becoming infected,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Twitter.

In South Africa, which has alerted the World Health Organization to the omicron option, previous restrictions have included a curfew and a ban on the sale of alcohol. This time, President Cyril Ramaphosa is simply calling on more people to make vaccines “to help restore the social freedoms we all strive for.”

Germany on Thursday imposed new strict restrictions on the unvaccinated, removing them from shops, restaurants and other large public places. They can go to work only if the test is negative.

The legislature is expected to take over the overall mandate for vaccines in the coming weeks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that these measures are necessary, as hospitals may be overloaded: “The situation in our country is serious.”

In the US, no political party is very interested in a return to quarantine or strict contact tracing. Even simple measures such as wearing masks have become a political hot spot. And Republicans have sued to block a new requirement from the Biden administration to get vaccinated or tested for major employers.

President Joe Biden, whose political fate may well depend on control of the pandemic, said the US will fight COVID-19 and the new option “not with blackouts or blockages, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”

“If people get vaccinated and wear masks, there is no need for blockages,” he added.

The rise in popularity of the new option doesn’t matter much to Mark Christensen, a grain buyer for the Nebraska ethanol plant. He rejects any vaccination orders and does not understand why they are needed. In any case, he said, most businesses in his part of the state are too small to be covered by the regulations.

“If they just encouraged me to accept this, this is one thing,” Christensen said. “But I believe in freedom of choice, not in power solutions.”

Since the inception of the omicron, Chile has taken a tougher stance: people over the age of 18 must receive a booster every six months to maintain a pass that allows them to visit restaurants, hotels and social events.

Dr. Madhukar Pai of McGill University School of Population and Public Health said masks are a simple and painless way to curb transmission, but these cheap home tests should be much more widespread among wealthy and affluent people alike. poor countries.

He said both approaches give people a sense of control over their behavior that is lost due to blockage, and make it easier to accept the need to do things like canceling a party or staying inside.

Pai said that the demand for widespread use of boosters, as is the case mainly in Israel, Chile and many countries in Europe, including France, will only prolong the pandemic, making it difficult to get the first doses in the developing world. This increases the chances of even more options appearing.

Insulation should be the very last choice, he said.

“Blocking occurs only when the system fails,” he said. “We do this when the hospital system is about to collapse. This is the last resort that indicates that you did not do everything right. “

Associated Press reporters Nicholas Paphitis in Athens, Greece; Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem; Alex Furtula from Nijmegen, the Netherlands; Zeke Miller in Washington; Frank Jordaens in Berlin; Patricia Luna in Santiago, Chile; Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Nebraska; Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg; Huizhong Wu from Taipei, Taiwan, and Chen Xi in Shanghai contributed.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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