UK’s reluctance on hard curbs put to the test
Omicron’s skyrocketing mid-march leaves scientists looking for tougher measures
LONDON Britain may need to introduce tighter restrictions to slow the growth of the Omicron variant and prevent a further rise in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, scientists across the country said on Saturday.
The government has indicated resistance to the type of sweeping restrictions introduced earlier in the pandemic, although it has acted to require people to wear masks in most indoor environments and present vaccination certificates to enter them. nightclub.
For policymakers in London, sensitivities regarding movement restrictions are on display in a number of European cities.
In Vienna, tens of thousands of people gathered on Saturday to protest restrictions in Austria, including mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and home containment orders for the unvaccinated. Similar outbursts of anger erupted in Spain and Luxembourg.
As for Britain, many scientists say the measures put in place by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government are unlikely to be enough.
British health officials say Omicron is spreading much faster than the Delta strain and is likely to replace it as the dominant variant in Britain within days. The UK recorded 58,194 coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number since January. And a further 633 cases of Omicron were confirmed that day in Britain, the largest daily increase since the variant was detected in the country, bringing the total number of cases found in the country to 1,898, have health authorities announced on Saturday.
Modeling released on Saturday by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that Omicron is likely to cause a big wave of infections by January and could cause between 25,000 and 75,000 deaths in England over the years. next five months if no further action is taken. .
The most pessimistic scenario projects half a million people hospitalized with the virus by the end of April, with daily hospitalizations doubling the previous peak in January. The study by the scientists, who help advise the UK government, has not been peer reviewed.
The number of infections will depend on the extent to which the variant escapes vaccine protection and the effectiveness of the booster shots in boosting immunity, which remain unclear.
Rosanna Barnard of the school’s Center for the Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases said: “Our most pessimistic scenario suggests that we may have to endure tighter restrictions to ensure that the (health service) is not overwhelmed. “
Johnson’s government says it is only considering “practical” measures such as extending recall shots, with policymakers aware of scenes of unrest that have unfolded in many parts of Europe.
In Vienna, around 1,400 police officers were called in to monitor Saturday’s protest, which drew around 44,000 people, and followed a similar protest in the Austrian capital the previous week.
Police said three people were arrested for offenses including the use of fireworks and failure to comply with the requirement to wear masks. Journalists covering the event, which started at Heldenplatz, were attacked with snowballs and ice, and one journalist was the victim of an attempted assault, police said.
Austria on Sunday ended lockdown restrictions for those vaccinated across much of the country following the protests.
In tense scenes seen in Luxembourg, several hundred demonstrators were kept under close surveillance by police, who used a water cannon and made arrests, according to 24 News Recorder, a news site. At the center of their anger are the restrictions on the health pass.
A health pass is also required in Spain, where police said around 1,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona against the rule.
Protesters in Catalonia held a banner with wording equating the health passport with a totalitarian state, according to the Fox26newshenry news site.
Catalonia demanded the so-called COVID passport for nightclubs, but extended it to bars at the end of last month.
Agencies via Xinhua