It was supposed to be the Christmas of Europe where family and friends could once again enjoy the holiday festivities and each other. Instead, the continent is the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic as cases reach record levels in many countries.
With an upsurge in infections despite nearly two years of restrictions, the health crisis increasingly pits citizens against citizens – the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.
Governments desperate to protect overburdened health systems are enforcing rules that limit choices for the unvaccinated in the hopes that this will increase immunization rates.
Austria went further on Friday by making vaccinations compulsory from February 1.
“For a long time, perhaps too long, I and others thought that it must be possible to convince people in Austria, to convince them to be vaccinated voluntarily,” said Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg.
He called the move “our only way out of this vicious cycle of viral waves and lockdown talk for good.”
While Austria is so far the only one in the European Union to make vaccinations compulsory, more and more governments are cracking down.
As of Monday, Slovakia is banning unvaccinated people from all non-essential stores and malls. They also won’t be allowed to attend a public event or gathering and will need to get tested twice a week just to go to work.
“A merry Christmas does not mean a Christmas without COVID-19,” warned Prime Minister Eduard Heger. “For this to happen, Slovakia would need a completely different vaccination rate.”
He called the measures “containment for the unvaccinated.”
Slovakia, where only 45.3% of 5.5 million people are fully vaccinated, reported a record 8,342 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.
It is not only the countries of central and eastern Europe that are suffering again. The rich countries of the West are also badly affected and are again imposing restrictions on their populations.
“It is really, absolutely time to act,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. With a vaccination rate of 67.5%, his country is now considering compulsory vaccinations for many health professionals.
Greece is also targeting the unvaccinated with new measures. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday evening announced a series of new restrictions on the unvaccinated, keeping them out of places such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums and gymnasiums, even if they tested negative.
âIt’s an immediate act of protection and, of course, an indirect urge to get vaccinated,â Mitsotakis said.
What’s happening across Canada
- Despite Alta. Advocacy for Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine, absorption is slow.
What is happening in the world
As of Saturday, more than 256.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker. The death toll worldwide was over 5.1 million.
In Asia, 200 vaccinated foreign tourists arrived on the Vietnamese beach-lined island of Phu Quoc on Saturday, the first wave of visitors to the country in nearly two years as it seeks to revive its pandemic-ravaged tourism economy.
In Africa, Nigerian authorities have launched a campaign to dramatically expand vaccination against the coronavirus in the country. Authorities aim to vaccinate half the population by February, a goal they say will help them achieve herd immunity.
In the Americas, the United States Food and Drug Administration has authorized booster shots for all adults six months after being fully immunized with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.