Omikron: Easing or containment? | world | DW

France: Dispute over schools

A seven-day incidence of more than 2,800 and almost 370,000 new infections in 24 hours: under the impression of a rapid increase in the number of corona, the Paris Senate tightened the rules for unvaccinated people on Thursday evening . They will soon no longer have access to restaurants, bars or cultural institutions and will no longer be allowed to use planes or long-distance trains. Until now, this was still possible with a current negative test. The toughening should only apply as long as there are more than 10,000 corona patients in French clinics. There are currently around 24,000 patients.

However, the Senate rejected harsher penalties for the violations. And schools must remain open. France only briefly closed schools at the very start of the pandemic. After that, the Paris government focused on keeping face-to-face classes open as much as possible through all waves of infection.

School class in Thionville: Face-to-face classes in France have been almost uninterrupted since the outbreak of the pandemic

But among the teaching staff there is great resentment. They protested Thursday with a national strike. It is criticized that the requirements for the protection of pupils and staff are constantly changing and that there are still no clear regulations for orderly processes in schools. The camel’s back was that new testing requirements were announced just before the end of the Christmas holidays and have been changed twice since then.

Denmark: loosen and vaccinate

Unlike Paris, the streets of Copenhagen are largely normal. There is no indication that the usual pandemic indicators are also extremely high in the Danish capital. The incidence has been at record highs for weeks, it is currently 2,500. More than 20,000 people are infected with the corona virus every day. And yet, zoos, amusement parks, cinemas and theaters are allowed to reopen from Sunday. 3G applies almost everywhere: access is available for those who have been vaccinated, those who have recovered or those who have been tested.

Denmark |  Torvehallerne food market in Copenhagen

Torvehallerne food market in Copenhagen: masks are mandatory in public interiors and 3G is available everywhere

Overall, omicron infections were milder, the situation in intensive care units is under control, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said. The numbers are high, but the curve of new infections is currently flattening again. In Denmark, people are generally relaxed in the face of the Omikron wave and rely above all on the high vaccination rate: more than 80% of people are fully vaccinated, almost 55% are boosted. And the Minister of Health quickly offered the prospect of a fourth vaccination to particularly vulnerable population groups.

Spain: a controversial “fluisation”

Pedro Sanchez gave a radio interview on Monday – the whole country has been debating ever since. Spain’s prime minister had said that, in order to protect the overburdened healthcare system, the development of the number of infections would no longer be monitored as meticulously as before. Given a vaccination rate of more than 80% and the fact that Omikron causes a milder course of the disease than previous corona variants, it is time to ask whether corona should not be treated as a flu wave.

The Spanish Prime Minister did not wait long for criticism. For many doctors and scientists, such a step would still be far too early. With a seven-day incidence of more than 1,400 and many overcrowded intensive care units across the country, COVID-19 cannot be compared to the flu, warned ├ôscar Zurriaga, vice president of the Spanish Society of epidemiology, in an interview with the German Press Agency. : “The pandemic is not over yet and we don’t know where it will take us.” The number of corona deaths is currently still significantly higher than that of an average flu wave.

Spain Madrid |  Corona crisis: passers-by with protective masks

Pedestrian zone in Madrid: despite high incidences, there are hardly any restrictions in the Spanish capital

loosen or not? The dispute over this issue is also reflected in the Spanish measures currently in place to contain the corona virus. While the capital Madrid only has a general mask requirement despite an incidence of over 1,000 over seven days, several other regions in Spain have introduced far-reaching 2G rules. In Asturias, indoor hospitality is no longer allowed, and in Catalonia there is even a night curfew.

Great Britain: in the footsteps of Spain?

In the UK, the situation is very similar to that of Spain: the numbers are high, as is the vaccination rate – and on the island too, the first experts are already announcing the end of the pandemic, while d others urge caution.

The seven-day incidence is over 1,500 and there are around 170,000 new infections every day. Nevertheless, the former head of the UK Vaccine Task Force, Clive Dix, has also called for a return to a “new normal” as the omicron variant has flu-like death rates. Instead of mass testing, Dix relies more on a “targeted strategy” for particularly vulnerable population groups. In the UK over 90% are simply vaccinated and over 60% are given a booster. And although the incidence is high, the curve of infections has again flattened markedly.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid visits St George's Hospital in South West London

Health Minister Sajid Javid visits St. George’s Hospital in London: many sick nurses

On Thursday, the quarantine period for people suffering from COVID-19 was reduced from seven to five days in England to alleviate staff shortages in businesses, schools and hospitals. In other parts of the kingdom, the corona rules are sometimes much stricter. Just days ago, 200 soldiers were sent to hospitals in London because too many medical staff were absent due to illness. The number of scheduled surgeries that have been postponed hit a new high at six million. It is therefore not surprising that the planned easing measures are also the subject of controversy in Great Britain.

China: zero tolerance despite low numbers

Unlike many European countries, we cannot speak of easing in China. The seven-day incidence in the People’s Republic has been near zero for months. However, three major cities are currently in lockdown: Xi’an with 13 million people, Anyang with 5.5 million and Yuzhou with one million people.

China Tianjin |  coronavirus |  Massentests

Mass testing in Tianjin: Response to first infections with the omicron variant

Lockdowns are part of a rigorous zero COVID strategy. As soon as a few cases appear, entire towns are quarantined. All residents are tested and not allowed to leave their homes, close contacts of infected people are forcibly housed in quarantine hotels. The Corona app is mandatory in the People’s Republic so that contacts can be easily traced. International air traffic is still severely restricted, arriving passengers must quarantine for weeks.

China has only officially recorded around 100,000 corona cases since the start of the pandemic. In France or Spain, more people are currently infected in a single day. Aside from regional shutdowns, life in China has largely returned to normal. Nevertheless, the rigorous zero COVID strategy should be maintained at least until the Winter Olympics in Beijing in mid-March.

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