Thursday, January 27, 2022

Omicron, Delta Option Combination Eliminates Decision Headaches

PARIS (AP). Greeks over 60 who refuse coronavirus vaccinations will face a monthly fine of more than a quarter of their pension – a tough policy that could prove risky for the country’s politicians.

In Israel, potential carriers of the new version of the omicron could have been hunted down by the country’s formidable spy agency, which apparently ignored the latest Supreme Court ruling.

Weekly protests in the Netherlands over the 5:00 p.m. quarantine and other new restrictions have escalated into violence, despite the overwhelming majority adopting the new rules.

With the COVID-19 delta variant driving an increase 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 curfew went into effect last week, a police patrol broke up demonstrations against a new isolation regime, one of the most stringent in the world. 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.

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 10 Greeks currently dying 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 approved the resumption of the use of controversial phone monitoring technology to track contacts of people who have confirmed the omicron variant.

Israeli human rights groups condemned the use of this technology as a violation of privacy rights, while others noted that it lacks accuracy on premises, resulting in large numbers of people being mistakenly labeled. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled to restrict its use.

“We need to use this tool in extreme situations, and I’m not sure if we are in such a situation,” Justice Minister Gideon Saar told Israel’s public television channel Kan this week.

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 tackling the pandemic, has used a combination of pressure and urgent calls to get people to get their first shots or booster. In addition, the administration is working to ensure that all individuals who fly to the United States are tested within one day of boarding, rather than three days.

But the president’s advisers ruled out larger blockages.

Biden said the US will tackle COVID-19 and the new option “not with blackouts or blockages, but with more mainstream 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.

And Chile has never given up on its requirement to wear masks in public – probably the most widespread renewed restriction worldwide.

Dr. Madhukar Pai of the McGill University School of Population and Public Health said masks are a simple and painless way to curb transmission, but that cheap home tests should become much more common in rich and poor countries alike. …

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. ”

In communist China, isolation is viewed differently, which does not allow dissent. With each new outbreak, entire cities are sealed and sometimes millions of people are tested. In conditions of the strictest isolation, people are forbidden to leave their homes, and food is brought to their doors.

So far, China sees no need for new restrictions in response to the omicron option. Wu Zunyu, head of the epidemiology department of the China Center for Disease Control, said that omicron is currently a manageable threat and “no matter which option, our public health measures are effective.”


Nikolai Paphitis in Athens, Greece; Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem; Alex Furtula from Nijmegen, the Netherlands; Zeke Miller in Washington; Patricia Luna in Santiago, Chile; Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Nebraska; Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, and Chen Xi in Shanghai.


Stay tuned for AP posts on the coronavirus pandemic at

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