Germany tightens restrictions, WHO warns of Europe's third wave: COVID-19 daily bulletin
Sunniya Ahmad Pirzada
- Germany will close most shops from Wednesday until January 10 as it tightens coronavirus restrictions and tries to rein in the spread of the disease. Only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as banks, are to remain open. Schools will also be closed in principle during the period.
- The World Health Organization's COVID-19 special envoy David Nabarro has warned that Europe is likely to suffer a third wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021 before a vaccine can be introduced. Nabarro noted that European governments had a lot to learn from Asian countries about how to stop the spread of the virus.
- Headteachers in England are urging the government to move all teaching online for secondary school pupils undergoing mass coronavirus testing in London, Kent and Essex. They have also asked for the roll-out of mass testing of students to other high-infection areas in England.
- Poland is aiming to administer 3.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine a month, the prime minister's top aide said on Saturday. The country's number of daily cases has fallen but the number of deaths has remained stubbornly high, regularly exceeding 500.
- The directors of five of Switzerland's largest hospitals have urged the government to introduce measures to reduce COVID-19 infections. In their letter to Health Minister Alain Berset, they said the pandemic was forcing them to postpone operations for patients with other life-threatening conditions while intensive care beds were becoming scarce.
- The French government is giving more freedom to care home residents for the December holidays, allowing them out to spend time with their families and receive visitors even if they are positive for COVID-19. The relaxed rules were announced will apply from December 15 to January 3.
- In Spain, police had to control thousands of residents who crowded central Madrid ahead of the Christmas season. On Saturday, police allowed the movement of people in only one direction and limited the number of people in the main shopping areas.
A live concert has taken place in Barcelona to test the use of same-day COVID-19 screening. More than 1,000 people took part in the study organized by the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation and the Primavera Sound music festival.
After passing an antigen screening, 500 of the volunteers were randomly selected to enjoy a free concert inside Barcelona's Apolo Theater. Those who were sent home will form a control group that will allow organizers to compare the virus spread among them with the group who were selected.
The 500 who attended the concert were required to wear face masks but social distancing was not enforced. The organizers believe the use of same-day antigen screening for large events could be a powerful tool to help make them more safe.
German leaders have been apologetic but firm while introducing the tightening of ani-coronavirus restrictions ahead of Christmas.
"I would have wished for lighter measures. But due to Christmas shopping the number of social contacts has risen considerably," Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists following a meeting with leaders of the country's 16 federal states. "There is an urgent need to take action," she said.
Among those pushing for tightening was Bavarian prime minister Markus Soeder, whose state has suffered Germany's highest death tolls. "'Lockdown light' has had an impact, but it was not sufficient," Soeder said. "The situation is out of control."
Members of the Dutch government are meeting on Sunday to review tougher lockdown measures ahead of Christmas.
The meeting comes the day after the country's biggest daily case-rise since October, with data released by the National Institute for Public Health jumping by more than 9,000 in 24 hours.
The latest confirmed cases took the total number during the pandemic to more than 600,000, with more than 10,000 deaths in the country.