Covid-19: drastic restrictions in Germany, the Omicron variant detected in New York – 12/03/2021 at 01:54

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A sign asking passers-by to wear the mask in Frankfurt, Germany, on November 20, 2021, as the country has just resumed drastic measures (AFP / Yann Schreiber)

Germany will impose drastic restrictions on the unvaccinated akin to near-containment, as a wind of panic blows in the world over the Omicron variant, of which the first five cases have been detected in New State York and which begins to be transmitted between people inside the United States.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday a tightening of restrictions on people not vaccinated against Covid-19, who will no longer have access to non-essential shops, restaurants, places of culture or leisure.

They will also have to limit their contact, at home or abroad.

These measures were taken after a meeting with his successor, Olaf Scholz, and the leaders of the 16 regions of the country. A draft law on compulsory vaccination, which Mr Scholz is in favor of, will be submitted to parliament for entry into force in February or March.

In the United States, five cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed Thursday in New York State and another in Minnesota. In the latter case, the infected person had traveled to New York but had not gone abroad, showing that the variant began to be transmitted between people in the United States.

Faced with the threat of a relaunch of the pandemic, US President Joe Biden presented a new plan to fight Covid-19 on Thursday, which, however, does not contain any radical or restrictive measures.

International travelers will have to present a negative test carried out in the day before their departure, the tests carried out at home will now be reimbursed but Mr. Biden has refrained from taking measures that are too politically risky, in a country where less than 60% of the population is fully vaccinated.

news"> President Joe Biden delivers a speech on the fight against Covid-19 on December 2, 2021 in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on the fight against Covid-19 on December 2, 2021 in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

While his attempts to impose vaccination in particular in companies met with opposition from Republicans, he felt that the fight against Covid-19 “should not” be a subject of political division.

Elsewhere in the world, restrictions are increasing. In Norway, the government on Thursday introduced new health restrictions in Oslo and its region after the appearance of a suspected outbreak of the variant among dozens of people who were all vaccinated, during a Christmas meal.

In Switzerland, 2,000 people including 1,600 students were placed in quarantine after the discovery of two cases of the variant on a campus of the very famous International School of Geneva.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based in Stockholm, for its part indicated that “preliminary data suggest a substantial advantage” of the new variant over the hitherto dominant Delta variant.

Based on these mathematical models, “Omicron could cause more than half of infections caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the European Union within the next few months,” the agency warned on Thursday.

Especially since, according to a study by South African scientists, the risk of catching Covid-19 again is increased with the Omicron variant.

news"> Number of deaths linked to the coronavirus officially announced by country, as of December 2 at 11:00 GMT (AFP /)

Number of deaths linked to the coronavirus officially announced by country, as of December 2 at 11:00 GMT (AFP /)

For the time being, underlined in Geneva the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the insufficiency of the vaccine coverage against the Covid and that of the level of screening constitute a “toxic” mixture. .

– “Matter of choice” –

It is “a perfect recipe for variants to reproduce and amplify”, he warned, stressing that the end of the pandemic was “a matter of choice”.

The first major event to be a victim of this, the next part of the COP15 – the UN convention on biodiversity – which should have taken place in January in Geneva, was postponed because of “uncertainties” linked to the Omicron variant.

In South Africa, where the identification of the Omicron variant was announced last week and where less than a quarter of the population is vaccinated, the authorities described Wednesday before Parliament an “exponential” spread of the virus. The new variant is already dominant there.

news"> Covid-19 patients in a German army Airbus A310-900 plane transported to other hospitals in Germany, in Dresden in eastern Germany, on December 1, 2021 (AFP / Ronny Hartmann)

Covid-19 patients in a German army Airbus A310-900 plane transported to other hospitals in Germany, in Dresden in eastern Germany, on December 1, 2021 (AFP / Ronny Hartmann)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres denounced the border closures, calling them a form of “apartheid” against an insufficiently vaccinated Africa.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also said the priority remained to “ensure that vaccines are produced and distributed as quickly as possible throughout the world”.

The Omicron variant has been spotted on all continents, especially in Europe, already faced before its appearance with a strong rebound in the epidemic.

news"> Staff responsible for helping to implement quarantine at Tokyo Haneda Airport on December 1, 2021 (AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI)

Staff responsible for helping to implement quarantine at Tokyo Haneda Airport on December 1, 2021 (AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI)

The States of the Old Continent have decided to tighten again the health restrictions: border controls, ban on travel to southern Africa, compulsory mask in transport and shops in the United Kingdom, recommendation to vaccinate vulnerable children in France, etc.

– “Viruses without borders” –

news"> Images of the structure of the spike protein of the Delta and Omicron variants presented by the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome and showing the variations observed compared to the original one of SARS-CoV-2 (AFP /)

Images of the structure of the spike protein of the Delta and Omicron variants presented by the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome and showing the variations observed compared to the original one of SARS-CoV-2 (AFP /)

Various laboratories, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax, have expressed confidence in their ability to create a new vaccine against Omicron. Russia has also announced that it is working on a version of its Sputnik V specifically targeting this variant.

Never has a variant of Covid-19 caused so much concern since the emergence of Delta, currently dominant and already very contagious.

The WHO considers “high” the “probability that Omicron spreads globally”, even if many unknowns remain: contagiousness, effectiveness of existing vaccines, severity of symptoms. To date, however, no deaths associated with Omicron have been reported.

The Covid-19 has killed at least 5,223,072 people worldwide since its appearance in late 2019 in China, according to an AFP count on Thursday.

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