PARIS (AP) – Greeks who are over 60 and refuse coronavirus vaccination could face monthly fines of more than a quarter of their pensions – a strict policy that politicians across the country say will cost voice but will save lives.
In Israel, potential carriers of the new variant of omicron could be tracked by the country’s national security agency, in apparent defiance of a Supreme Court ruling from the last tour.
The weekly protests in the Netherlands against the country’s 5 p.m. lockdown and other new restrictions have turned into violence, despite what appears to be overwhelming acceptance of the rules.
With the delta variant of COVID-19 increasing cases in Europe and fears growing over the omicron variant, governments around the world are considering new measures for populations tired of hearing about restrictions and vaccines.
It’s a thorny calculation made more difficult by the prospect of backlash, increased social divisions and, for many politicians, the fear of being removed from office.
“I know the frustration we all feel with this variant of omicron, the feeling of exhaustion that we might be reliving it all,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday, two days after the government announced the masks would again be mandatory. in stores and on public transport and required all foreign visitors to undergo a COVID-19 test and quarantine. “We try to take a balanced and proportionate approach.
New restrictions, or variations of old ones, are emerging around the world, especially in Europe, where leaders are scrambling to explain what looks like a broken promise: that mass vaccinations would mean an end to limitations. widely hated.
“People need normality. They need families, they need to see people, obviously safe, with social distancing, but I really think this Christmas now people have had enough, ”said Belinda Storey, who runs a booth on a Christmas market in Nottingham, England.
In the Netherlands, where the curfew went into effect last week, police patrols were organized to break up protests against the new lockdown, which is one of the strictest in the world. But most people seemed resigned to shopping and going home.
“The only thing we can do is listen to the rules, follow them and hope it doesn’t get worse. For me this is not a problem. I am a nurse. I know how sick people get, ”said Wilma van Kampen.
In Greece, residents over 60 face fines of 100 euros ($ 113) per month if they do not get the vaccine. The fines will be added to the tax bills in January.
About 17% of Greeks over 60 are not vaccinated despite various efforts to get them to be vaccinated, and nine in 10 Greeks who currently die from COVID-19 are over 60.
“I don’t care if the measure will cost me extra votes in the election,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday after lawmakers passed the measure. “I have no doubts that we are doing the right thing, and I have no doubts that this policy will save lives.”
By using a carrot instead of a stick, the Slovak government is proposing to give people 60 and over a bonus of 500 euros ($ 568) if they get vaccinated.
In Israel, the government this week approved the resumption of the use of controversial phone monitoring technology to perform contact tracing of people confirmed to have the omicron variant.
Israeli rights groups have denounced the use of the technology as a violation of privacy rights, and others have noted that its accuracy in indoor places is imperfect, leading to large numbers of people. to be wrongly reported. The Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this year limiting its use.
“We have to use this tool in extreme situations, and I am not convinced that we are in such a situation,” Justice Minister Gideon Saar told Israeli public broadcaster Kan this week.
In South Africa, which alerted the World Health Organization to the omicron variant, previous restrictions included curfews and a ban on the sale of alcohol. This time, President Cyril Ramaphosa is simply calling for more people to get vaccinated “to help restore the social freedoms we all aspire to”.
In the United States, there is little appetite in both political parties for a return to lockdowns or strict contact tracing. The application of even simple measures such as wearing a mask has become a political flashpoint. And Republicans are suing to block the Biden administration’s new requirement to get vaccinated or tested for large employers.
President Joe Biden, whose political fate may well depend on controlling the pandemic, has used a combination of pressure and urgent appeals to get people to receive their first shots or a booster. In addition, the administration is working to require that all air travelers to the United States be tested within one day of boarding their flight, instead of the current three days.
But Biden said the United States will fight COVID-19 and the new variant “not with closures or blockages, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, etc.” “
“If people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there is no need for containment,” he added.
The ramp-up of the new variant makes little difference to Mark Christensen, a grain buyer for an ethanol plant in Nebraska. He rejects any mandate for vaccination and does not understand why it would be necessary. In any event, he said, most businesses in his corner of the state are too small to be regulated.
“If they were just encouraging me to take it, that’s one thing,” Christensen said. “But I believe in freedom of choice, not decisions by force.”
Chile has taken a harder line since the emergence of the omicron: people over the age of 18 must receive a booster dose every six months to keep their passes that allow them access to restaurants, hotels and public gatherings.
And Chile has never abandoned its obligation to wear masks in public – possibly the most common renewed restriction in the world.
Dr Madhukar Pai, of McGill University’s School of Population and Public Health, said masks are an easy and painless way to reduce transmission, but cheap home tests have to be a lot. more prevalent, both in rich and poor countries.
He said both approaches give people a sense of control over their own behavior that is lost with a lockdown and make it easier to accept the need to do things like cancel a party or stay indoors.
Pai said demanding recalls universally, as is essentially the case in Israel, Chile and many countries in Europe, including France, will only prolong the pandemic by making it harder to get the firsts. doses in the developing world. This increases the chances of even more variations.
Blockages, he said, should be the very last choice.
“Blockages only happen when a system goes down,” he said. “We do it when the hospital system is about to collapse. It’s a last resort that indicates you haven’t done all the right things.
This is not how blockages are perceived in Communist China, which allows little dissent. With each new epidemic, entire cities are sealed off and sometimes millions of people undergo mass testing. In the strictest confinements, people are prohibited from leaving their homes and groceries are brought to their doorstep.
So far, China has not seen the need for further restrictions in response to the omicron variant. The head of the epidemiology unit of the Center for Disease Control of China, Wu Zunyou, said that omicron, for now, poses a manageable threat, and “whatever the variant, our public health measures are effective “.
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