Increase in the notification rate of Covid cases, stable hospitalization rates, decrease in ICU admission rates and unchanged mortality rates. For Europe struggling with the spread of the Omicron variant, the Higher Institute of Health foresees two weeks of high intensity. Even if the picture shows different trends depending on the case, concern is also growing in countries with higher vaccination coverage where measures are being studied to alleviate the repercussions (considered very likely) in key sectors.
France, enhanced contact tracing at school
The new cases of Covid-19 in France have exceeded 200 thousand for four consecutive days while the government is pressing for Parliament to approve a law with which only those who are vaccinated can enter places such as restaurants and cinemas. The mask becomes mandatory again in various public places over 6 years of age (until now it was 11 years old). Meanwhile, schools reopened after the holidays under the banner of uncertainty due to the unprecedented impact of the Omicron variant on infections. The main risks are the closure of classes and the risk of contagion for teachers, with consequent mass absenteeism. Regarding the health protocol, no major changes, apart from the rules for elementary schools: the strengthening of contact tracing for children is foreseen, with the obligation to subject the youngest students to 3 swabs in 4 days after the identification of a case of positivity in their class.
Germany aims to protect critical services
According to some forecasts, Omicron could become the dominant strain in the country by mid-January. Germany is therefore contemplating measures to protect critical services, starting with shortening quarantine times and avoiding shortages in hospitals, nursing homes and law enforcement. The variant sparked an unprecedented global spike in the coronavirus pandemic, with a record 10 million people diagnosed in the seven days through Sunday 31. Europe’s largest economy is currently in what some officials have called a “freeze for the not vaccinated ”, with limits on public events and access to non-essential shops. Stricter limits on private rallies came into effect last week, contributing to a new round of protests against the government’s pandemic strategy.
Great Britain, emergency plans ready
Contingency plans in case hospitals, schools and other workplaces are hit by severe staff shortages amid the spread of coronavirus infections. This is the requirement of the UK government in public sector workplaces, prepared for absences ranging from 10% to 25% due to Omicron’s greater ability to make people sick or to force them into isolation. The highly transmissible variant has caused a steady stream of infections in Britain in the last period, reaching a new daily high of 189,000 on 31 December. About 1 in 25 people in England – around 2 million people – were found to be positive in the week leading up to the holiday season, according to the Office of National Statistics. In London alone, 1 in 15. So much so that now, to stem the wave, the increase in tests in schools and shops is being prepared together with better ventilation of the premises.
Israel is betting on the fourth dose
Israel is preparing to face a new flare-up by raising its guard on the vaccine front even more with the green light, announced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, at the fourth dose for all over 60s (four months after the booster recall). A “storm” of infections fueled by Omicron is expected in the country (“we will reach 50,000 infections a day”, warned Bennett) even if yet another outbreak could lead to herd immunity, effectively putting an end to the state of health emergency permanent. And there are incentives for those who have not yet immunized, with the Green pass one month after the first dose.