Nov 25 (Reuters) – European countries expanded covid-19 booster vaccinations, began planning to get shots at young children and tightened some sidewalks on Thursday as the continent battled an increase in coronavirus cases and concerns about its economic downfall increased.
Slovakia went into a two-week shutdown, the Czech government declared a 30-day state of emergency involving early closure of bars and clubs and a ban on Christmas markets, while Germany crossed the threshold of 100,000 covid-19-related deaths.
Europe is at the heart of the latest covid-19 wave, reporting one million new infections approximately every two days and now accounts for almost two-thirds of new infections worldwide.
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The European Commission proposed on Thursday that EU citizens will have to take booster shots if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer without the need for tests or quarantines. Read more
In France, authorities announced that booster shots would be made available to anyone over the age of 18, rather than just over 65 and those with underlying health problems. Read more
Many countries are rolling out or increasing their use booster shot, even though the World Health Organization wants the most vulnerable people in the world to be fully vaccinated first.
In Africa, where only 6.6% of the 1.2 billion population is fully vaccinated, many countries are struggling with logistics to speed up their inoculation campaigns when vaccine deliveries finally pick up speed, the head of Africa’s disease control agency said on Thursday.
European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Wednesday recommended vaccine enhancers for all adults, with priority given to those over 40 years of age.
The number of new daily cases in Germany broke a record 75,961 on Thursday and its total death toll reached 100,119 since the pandemic began, according to the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Data showed that the increase is weighing on consumer morale in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, dampening business prospects during Christmas shopping. Read more
SHOTS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
There is a growing pressure in some countries to vaccinate young children.
On Thursday, the EU Medicines Agency approved the use of Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTechs (22UAy.DE) vaccine in 5- to 11-year-olds in a lower dose, after it was approved for children as young as 12 years in May. The European Commission will make a final decision, which is expected on Friday.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic prepared to inoculate young children after approval by the European Medicines Agency, although deliveries of the lower doses are not expected until 20 December.
In France, where the number of infections doubles every 11 days, Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would ask health authorities to investigate whether 5- to 11-year-olds could be vaccinated.
Nearly half a million lives across Europe have been saved by vaccination, among people aged 60 and older since the vaccine was launched, the World Health Organization’s regional office said on Thursday in a study with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. .
Many European countries are sharpening curbs.
The state of emergency announced by the Czech Republic allows the government to order restrictions on public life. Authorities there ordered bars and clubs to close at 10pm, banned Christmas markets and restricted the presence of cultural and sporting events for 1,000 people. Read more
Slovakia’s two-week shutdown from Thursday followed in neighboring Austria, which began a deadlock on Monday. Slovakia, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped the global charts. Read more
Authorities ordered all but important stores and services closed and banned people from traveling outside their districts unless they went to work, school or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people were banned.
French authorities said that the rules for wearing face masks will be tightened and controls on health cards used for entry into public places will be expanded. But officials said there was no need to follow European countries that have reintroduced locks.
In Germany, the Greens’ co-leader Annalena Baerbock said the new government, made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP), had taken 10 days to decide whether further restrictions were needed. Read more
A large part of Germany has already introduced rules to restrict access to indoor activities to people who have been vaccinated or recovered.
In the Netherlands, the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals has reached levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in just over a week if the virus is not curtailed.
The Dutch government said it would take strong action to curb infections. The national TV company NOS reported on Thursday that the government’s leading outbreak management group has announced that restaurants, bars and non-essential shops will be closed no later than 17.00 as part of a new package of lock-in measures.
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Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Madeline Chambers, Emma Thomasson, Radovan Stoklasa, Gergely Szakacs, Anthony Deutsch, Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay and Reuters; Author of Frances Kerry; Edited by Josephine Mason, Angus MacSwan and Alexander Smith