Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Europe is facing a second consecutive Christmas under lockdown with record-breaking coronavirus cases in nations across the continent sparking ‘red alert’ warnings. 

The WHO said today Europe was the only region in the world where deaths had increased – with fatalities spiking by five percent this week. 

Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said ‘the alarm signals are all red’ as he imposed tough restrictions, ordering people to work at home for at least four days a week.

In Austria, Covid cases have continued rising after two million unvaccinated people were ordered to stay in their homes on Monday.

Germany has seen a record-breaking number of cases, with 68,366 new infections on Thursday – a colossal 40 percent rise on the same day last week.

‘We are currently heading toward a serious emergency,’ the director of Berlin’s Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said. ‘We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don’t take countermeasures now.’ 

Now the country is considering following Vienna by imposing a ‘lockdown for the unvaccinated’, with Italy and Greece also considering a similar health apartheid.

The Czech Republic has already followed Austria’s lead by announcing a lockdown of its 4.25 million citizens who have refused the jab. 

As Europe braced for Christmas under lockdown:

  • Germany’s hospitals are buckling under the strain, with patients transferred to Italy because the wards are full;
  • Russian Covid cases hit record highs for the second-day running amid poor vaccine uptake with just 43 percent of the population double-jabbed;
  • Ireland has ordered a midnight curfew for all nightclubs and pubs; 
  • Germany’s disease control agency warned of a ‘really terrible Christmas’;
  • Virologists in the Netherlands proposed extending Christmas holidays to slow surging cases among children amid the highest cases on record today;
  • Spain’s Benidorm beach resort, popular with British partygoers, has opened a Covid vaccine centre to counter surging cases.
, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

GERMANY: Medical personnel works at the intensive care unit with Covid-19 patients in a hospital in Freising near Munich. Germany has seen a record-breaking number of cases, with 68,366 new infections on Thursday – a colossal 40 percent rise on the same day last week.

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

AUSTRIA: People wearing face mask to protect against the coronavirus as they visits a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday. Covid cases have continued rising after two million unvaccinated people were ordered to stay in their homes on Monday.

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

ITALY: The colosseum in Rome is busy with foreign tourists on Thursday. Italy reported a rise in Covid infections on Wednesday and breached the 10,000 threshold for the first time since May 8 with 10,172 cases recorded. Like many European countries, Italy requires people to show their so-called Green Pass to dine indoors, visit museums and cinemas and for long-distance public transport. The pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or having been cured of COVID-19.

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on ‘red alert’ for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

European nation’s scrambling to impose lockdown rules as Christmas looms 

AUSTRIA

Austria reported 15,145 cases on Thursday, a new one-day record for the pandemic and well above the previous record of 9,586 that was logged a year ago. 

It became the first country in Europe to impose a lockdown of the unvaccinated on Monday.

Two million people in the country who have opted not to have a Covid jab have been ordered to stay at home with threats of £1,237 fines.

GERMANY

Germany has seen a record-breaking number of cases, with 68,366 new infections on Thursday – a colossal 40 percent rise on the same day last week.

National and regional leaders meeting on Thursday set a hospitalization threshold for triggering Covid lockdowns of the unvaccinated amid soaring cases.

The incoming government will also tighten measures, including forcing people to show proof of vaccination on public transport and at work.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million, reported a record 22,511 cases for one day on Tuesday and hospitals have been filling up although the number of patients – at about 4,500 – is about half the peak seen in March.

The Czech government approved plans to allow only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months to enter restaurants, attend certain events and use various other services from Monday.

It will also require testing for COVID-19 at workplaces.

ITALY

Italy reported a rise in Covid infections on Wednesday and breached the 10,000 threshold for the first time since May 8 with 10,172 cases recorded.

Like many European countries, Italy requires people to show their so-called Green Pass to dine indoors, visit museums and cinemas and for long-distance public transport. The pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or having been cured of COVID-19.

Protests have grown more acute after Italy last month became the first Western country to also require the pass to access workplaces.

SPAIN

Worried by a rise in COVID-19 infections, some of Spain’s regional governments are asking courts to authorize the introduction of virus passports that can help control the pandemic’s spread.

The governments of the Basque Country, Valencia, Navarra and Catalonia say they are ready to be the first autonomous regions of Spain to introduce COVID-19 passports for people to enter nightclubs, bars, restaurants and some public events.

But first they need court permission. If approved, the measure will apply to people 12 and over who want to enter nightlife establishments featuring music or dancing or restaurants with more than 50 diners.

Spain officially reported 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Monday.

IRELAND

Ireland has seen coronavirus cases soar in recent days and as a result has reimposed Covid restrictions.

From today, businesses including nightclubs and pubs are being forced to close at midnight, the use of Covid passports is expanding, and people will be advised to work from home where possible.

The country is also expanding its booster vaccination drive as Covid infections and hospitalisations rise. 

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Austria reported 15,145 cases on Thursday, a new one-day record for the pandemic and well above the previous record of 9,586 that was logged a year ago.

The hardest-hit region has been Upper Austria, where the governor today called for restrictions on the un-jabbed to be scrapped – but only so that a full nationwide lockdown can be imposed instead.

Thomas Stelzer, speaking ahead of a government summit on Covid measures tomorrow, said that if no nationwide lockdown is ordered then he will lock down his province independently.  

Mr Stelzer said the lockdown would last ‘several weeks’ and would be coordinated with neighbouring Salzburg province, whose governor also confirmed a lockdown is being prepared.

‘This absolutely necessary measure… will hopefully help to significantly bring down the daily growth figures. This was not the case with the previous measures,’ he told local newspaper Kurier.

‘The measures from next week will certainly be very drastic. But we need them so that we can save our health and soon find a free life again.’

The Austrian government has drawn heavy criticism for its decision earlier this week to lock down just the two million people in the country who have opted not to have a Covid jab, confining them to their homes except for essential business.

It was quickly dubbed a ‘health apartheid’ by critics, who said it is ‘unenforceable’, disproportionate, and amounts to forcing people to undergo a medical procedure.

But it did appear to produce results, with hundreds of thousands of queuing up to get vaccines this week – with the highest number of jabs issued since the summer.

Austria’s booming infections comes amid a new wave of Covid across Europe that has seen infection rise sharply across the continent as government scramble to find the best way to respond.

Countries with low vaccination rates have been the hardest-hit, with Latvia – on 55 per cent of people fully jabbed – going into full lockdown last month.

The Czech Republic – 58 per cent fully vaccinated – followed Austria’s lead this week by announcing a lockdown on just those who had refused the jab.

Italy and Greece are considering similar measures, while France has pointed out that unvaccinated people are driving the new wave without saying what it will do.

Germany has also begun restricting life for unvaccinated people by expanding its use of Covid passports to almost all businesses and public spaces while tightening the evidence required to get a pass.

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Previously, people could provide either evidence of vaccination, evidence of an infection, or a negative test to get a pass.

But under new rules being imposed in many states, only evidence of vaccination or a previous infection is being accepted.

On Thursday, German lawmakers approved new measures which would require employees to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces; a similar rule will apply to public transport.  

The measures passed in the Bundestag with votes from the center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are currently negotiating to form a new government. 

The measures need to be approved by Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which could happen Friday. 

It comes as Lothar Wieler, director of German disease control agency the Robert Koch Institute, warned the country faces a ‘really terrible Christmas’ unless tough new rules are brought in now. 

‘We are currently heading toward a serious emergency,’ he said. ‘We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don’t take countermeasures now.’

In Belgium, all people in indoor venues such as cafes and restaurants will need to wear a mask unless seated and the rule will apply to those aged 10 or older. The previous age threshold was 12. 

Nightclubs may have to test their guests if they want to let them dance mask-free. People wanting to eat in a restaurant or go to the theatre already must present a COVID pass, showing vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery. 

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Austria’s Covid cases have continued to soar even after lockdown was imposed on 2million unvaccinated people earlier this week

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Deaths from Covid are not year at the levels they reached during the second wave, but are rising rapidly and driving fears over the winter wave

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Thomas Stelzer, governor of Upper Austria province, has called for the un-jabbed lockdown to end – but only so a nationwide lockdown can replace it

Most Belgians will also have to work from home four days a week until mid-December, and for three days after that.

Belgium has one of the highest cases per capita rates in the European Union, behind only the Baltic and former Yugoslav nations and Austria, at around one per hundred people over the past 14 days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

‘The alarm signals are all red,’ prime minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference. ‘We had all hoped to have a winter without coronavirus, but Belgium is not an island.’

The new restrictions are still milder than the lockdown imposed on the unvaccinated in Austria and the shortening of bar and restaurant opening hours in the Netherlands.

De Croo said Belgium planned to give booster jabs, currently limited mostly to the elderly, to the wider population.

Belgium’s infections spike has been sharpest in the northern region Flanders, where vaccination rates are higher, prompting eased restrictions in October.

The warning comes as a hospital in Bavaria’s Freising last week made the unprecedented decision to transfer a Covid-19 patient to northern Italy because it ‘had no more capacity to receive them, and the surrounding hospitals were also full.’ 

A fourth ferocious wave has sent infections to record highs in Europe’s biggest economy, putting hospitals also hit by the double whammy of a shortfall of personnel under immense strain.

German authorities have blamed the latest surge in infections on the unvaccinated, more than 30 per cent of the population, and pleaded with people to get the jab.   

It comes as Austria this week confined some 2million unvaccinated people to their homes amid soaring cases, a move the Czech Republic will introduce from Monday and both Italy and Germany have said they are considering.  

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

A ferocious fourth wave has sent infections to record highs in Germany, putting hospitals in parts of the country under immense strain and a ‘normal’ Christmas at risk (pictured, a Christmas market in Bonn, Germany on November 17)

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Cases are rapidly rising across the country and have hit record levels in recent weeks as a relatively low jab rate and slow booster drive combined to speed up infections

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

Deaths are nowhere near the levels seen during the first and second wave of Covid, but have started to climb rapidly amid fears they could soon top the previous peaks

German lawmakers are debating measures Thursday that would replace the nationwide epidemic rules, which will expire at the end of the month.

The Robert Koch Institute today said 65,371 newly confirmed cases were reported in a single day, continuing the upward trend that experts have been warning about for weeks. 

Wieler warned that hospitals across Germany are struggling to find beds for Covid-19 patients and those with other illnesses. 

He also called for the closure of clubs and bars, an end to large-scale events and access to many parts of public life to be limited to those with vaccine or recovery certificates. 

Germany’s vaccination rate stands at 67.7 per cent but some regions have jab take-up as low as 57.6 per cent. Wieler said the country needs to increase its vaccination rates to significantly above 75 per cent.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel made a new plea on Wednesday for the unvaccinated to get jabbed, saying ‘when enough people are vaccinated, that is the way out of the pandemic’.

In a bid to get more to take the jab, Germany’s parliament is poised to vote through new regulations for more curbs on the unvaccinated.

Under proposals drafted by the three parties in talks to form Germany’s new government, unvaccinated people will soon have to produce a negative test to use public transport or go to the office. 

Through the highs and lows spanning 18 months of the pandemic, Germany had on many occasions taken in patients from neighbouring countries as hospitals elsewhere ran out of space.  

While the absolute number of patients in intensive care still lies below the peak a year ago, this time around, hospitals are also ailing from the double whammy of a shortfall in personnel that has seriously hampered their ability to cope. 

The medical director at the hospital in Freising, Thomas Marx, 43, said: ‘Last week, on Wednesday or Thursday, we had to transfer a patient by helicopter to Merano.

‘We had no more capacity to receive them, and the surrounding Bavarian hospitals were also full,’ he said.

The hospital also had to send another patient to another Bavarian town Regensburg over the weekend.

‘We are at the limits of our capacity, which is why we have to resort to these means,’ he said.

Marx’s service is handling 13 intensive care cases at the moment, three more than it has capacity for. Five of them are coronavirus patients, all of whom are unvaccinated.

At the intensive care unit of Munich Clinic Schwabing, senior doctor Niklas Schneider voiced frustration over vaccine resistance in some quarters.

‘I find it really astonishing that vaccination is not accepted by the masses even though we have the possibility to get it. It is not completely understandable to me that so many people are allowing themselves to be misled by some horror stories about vaccines,’ he said.

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

2: A nurse assists a Covid-19 patient, in the new ward to deal with the Covid-19 emergency set up in the Fiera del Levante, on November 12, in Bari, Italy

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

There were 7,815 new Covid-19 cases in Italy on Tuesday, an increase of 28 per cent on the same day last week

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

, Europe on &#8216;red alert&#8217; for Christmas lockdown: Austria sees record cases despite Covid apartheid, The Today News USA

There were 74 new deaths in Italy on Tuesday, a rise of 9 per cent on the same day last week 

Like the hospital in Freising, the Munich clinic is at full capacity.

‘The team is holding on, but we are incredibly frustrated… because at the end of the day we are the last resort for everything that is wrong with society as a whole,’ said Schneider.

‘The sick people who come to us, who are in mortal danger, we have to treat them, they need help. It doesn’t matter if they were previously anti-Corona, anti-vaccine or double-vaccinated, although we don’t have any of the latter in the ward.’

Besides the relatively low vaccine take-up compared to other parts of western Europe, health staff also complain that more should also have been done to bolster their capacity.

Only one in four German hospitals are able to maintain a regular intensive care service at the moment, said Spiegel magazine. Many others say that beyond demand, a major problem is an acute shortage of trained personnel.

Already a chronic problem before the pandemic, long hours, low pay and stress during the coronavirus crisis have only served to put even more people off a job in the healthcare sector.

Schneider noted that there are now far fewer health workers than in the first wave. Likewise, his colleague in Freising voiced ‘incomprehension’ over the latest crisis.

‘I admire the calmness with which the staff operate, with which we face this new challenge with such professionalism,’ Marx said. ‘But I also know that some people, inside, are boiling, even if they don’t let it spill out.’