Europe goes into lockdown as governments prep for Omicron surge

Scholz’s new government signalled its willingness to implement strict measures against the spread of COVID-19, which have been prompted by a surge in cases and the introduction of the Omicron variant, which has thus far claimed next to zero lives.

Europe goes into lockdown as governments prep for Omicron surge
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
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Germany’s economy is on the ropes as it heads toward recession. Amid a tightening of COVID-19 lockdowns, Germany, Europe's largest economy, is expected to shrink 0.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Last week, Olaf Scholz replaced long-time chancellor Angele Merkel to lead the German government. In the days ahead of Scholz being sworn into office, both he and Merkel jointly announced a new set of lockdowns for unvaccinated German citizens.

Scholz’s new government signalled its willingness to implement strict measures against the spread of COVID-19, which have been prompted by a surge in cases and the introduction of the Omicron variant, which has thus far claimed next to zero lives.

Germany’s hardline lockdowns are in line with their Austrian neighbours, and are poised to tighten with the holiday season.

CNN Business reported:

Europe’s largest economy will shrink 0.5% in the fourth quarter of this year, compared with the third, and stagnate in the first three months of 2022, according to projections published Tuesday by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research. An economy is in recession when it contracts for two consecutive quarters…

Growth is expected to pick up next summer as a wave of coronavirus cases subsides and supply bottlenecks ease, but the slow start to the year will cost the manufacturing powerhouse. Ifo slashed its growth forecast for 2022 by 1.4 percentage points to 3.7%.

Ifo expects inflation to increase by 3.1% this year and 3.3% in 2022, rates that far exceed the European Central Bank’s target of 2%. Consumer prices are not expected to return to normal until 2023, according to Ifo.

Neighbouring Austria announced a vaccine mandate for all citizens over the age of 14 to be fully vaccinated by February or face fines or imprisonment. The vaccination status of every citizen will be tracked through his or her electronic health records.

In Italy, the government has implemented two levels of health passes, those who can provide negative COVID-19 tests are eligible for “basic” passes, which enable them to use public transportation or check into hotels. The second level pass, which requires vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of recovery from the disease within the last six months is required for access to indoor dining and entertainment venues.

Elsewhere, notably in Greece and Latvia, citizens face a variety of restrictions for being unvaccinated.

In Latvia, unvaccinated politicians are not allowed to vote on laws, debate bills — either in person or virtually — or even receive a salary. In Greece, citizens over the age of 60 must be vaccinated by January or face fines totalling nearly 15 per cent of their monthly pension.

As the Omicron variant continues to spread through the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson’s government is mulling tougher measures.

On Tuesday, British lawmakers voted to approve tougher rules on mask-wearing on indoor public spaces and health passports to slow the spread of the variant. U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the transmissibility of Omicron, though less severe than other variants, is likely to trigger a surge in hospital admissions if it goes unchecked.

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