November 29. In the midst of a fourth Covid wave and as the unstoppable new Omicron variant infects the European Union, governments’ attempts starting this week to curb the spike by reintroducing restrictions — reminiscent of last year’s tightened rules — range from a national lockdown in Austria to travel bans, curtailed services at restaurants and stores, limits or canceling of shows and events and mandatory testing and masks.
The mood around the continent is mainly one of confusion and concern with experts recommending tougher rules ’to avoid chaos’ as end-of-year celebrations approach.
Their efforts are being complicated as the latest wave of cases are aggravated by the new South African variant and governments’ attempts to tread carefully for fear of jeopardising their stumbling economic recoveries.
Anti-lockdown protests — some turning violent — have occurred in recent days in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy and Croatia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that unless urgent action is taken preliminary evidence suggests the Omicron variant may spread more rapidly than previous coronavirus infections and calculates that 700,000 more deaths could be recorded in Europe and Asia by March 2022, bringing the total to 2.2 million since the pandemic began.