Surge cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant caused governments to implement fresh bans and hasten booster injections just days prior to Christmas. The surge in Omicron cases has also forced Singapore to restrict quarantine-free travel and Australia to restart its vaccine drive on Wednesday.
As Omicron emerges as the dominant strain of the virus, governments throughout the world have tightened social mobility restrictions and made urgent requests for citizens to get vaccinated, upending plans that many had anticipated would usher in a post-pandemic era in 2022.
Singapore’s government announced on Wednesday that from December 23 to January 20, all new ticket sales for flights and buses under its quarantine-free travel programme entering the city-state will be halted due to the fast-spreading Omicron virus.
“Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defences, including enhancing our healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted,” Singapore’s health ministry said in a statement.
President Joe Biden of the United States pledged half a billion free fast Covid-19 testing on Tuesday, warning the quarter of adult Americans who are unvaccinated that their decisions could mean the “different between life and death.” find out more
Countries are also attempting to reduce the time between second vaccine injections and boosters in response to the increase in cases. There is a reluctance to return to the stringent controls established during the spread of the Delta variety earlier this year, fearful of public lockdown weariness.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, announced extra immunisation financing for clinics and pharmacists on Wednesday. He also requested the country’s states to reactivate hundreds of vaccination centres, which were closed when double-dose rates in adults reached 80 per cent, in order to speed up the booster deployment.
On Wednesday, the country’s federal and state officials convened an emergency meeting of the national Cabinet to tackle the growing number of cases that are straining testing facilities.
For the first time during the epidemic, Australia reported more than 5,000 daily infections on Wednesday, with the majority of cases occurring in the country’s most populated states, New South Wales and Victoria.
Despite the Omicron increase, Morrison reiterated on Wednesday that lockdowns will not be reinstated and that preventing the virus’s transmission is a personal responsibility.
In South Korea, where administrators announced restrictions on meetings and operation hours for restaurants, cafes, and bars, there was also opposition to the new lockdowns.
While polls show widespread support for South Korea’s new limitations, which are among the country’s toughest ever, many small firms have complained that the restrictions have left them overstaffed and overstocked, as they prepared for the Christmas season under less stringent standards.
Small business and restaurant organisations have published statements condemning the decision and demanding compensation, with one group pledging to hold a protest on Wednesday.
The European president of the World Health Organization, Hans Kluge, warned on Tuesday that Omicron would bring a “storm,” “pushing already stressed health services further to the brink.”
In recent days, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and South Korea have all reimposed partial or complete lockdowns or other social distancing measures.
From Saturday, nightclubs and bars in Portugal were required to close, and workers were urged to work from home for at least two weeks.
Although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that further COVID-19 limitations would not be implemented in England before Christmas, the situation remained exceedingly tough, and the government may be forced to act later.
According to Bloomberg News, governments have stepped up immunisation and treatment efforts, with the US Food and Drug Administration ready to approve Covid-19 therapy pills from Pfizer Inc and Merck.
People over the age of 60 in Israel will receive a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccination.
Policymakers are rushing to handle the potential economic impact of fresh outbreaks, with the United Kingdom offering 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) in additional help for Omicron-affected firms.
Businesses are particularly concerned about a slew of cancellations affecting big-ticket events in the new year, given how little is known about the severity of Omicron illnesses.
(Adapted from Investing.com)