Monday, 24 Jan 2022

Von der Leyen to announce emergency measures to tackle Omicron outbreak in bloc today

Omicron: Third case of variant is found in the UK

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Ms von der Leyen is attending the World Health Assembly alongside the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. The World Health Organisation is preparing to launch the preliminary stages for a pandemic treaty, intended to coordinate global responses to developments like the new variant. It was a move that some countries, such as the United States, were hesitant to make.

The President of the European Commission said on Sunday that the EU needed to take the time to fully evaluate the consequences of the discovery of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

She added EU member states needed to push for greater vaccine takeup.

Ms Von der Leyen, speaking from Latvia, said that the variant was one which the world ought to take seriously.

She said: “We know that we are in a race against time.

“The scientists and manufacturers need two to three weeks to have a full picture about the quality of the mutations of this Omicron variant.”

She continued: “The general line is hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

“The highest priority right now is social distancing, reduce the contact, but vaccinate and boost as much as possible.”

Belgium was the first EU country to register a case of the Omicron variant on Friday.

Belgian leadership responded by toughening up coronavirus regulations, including shutting the doors of nightclubs and reinstating work from home orders.

The Omicron variant was then quickly classified as a variant “of concern” by the WHO, after it was first identified in South Africa.

It has since been detected across the world, including in the UK, Germany, Israel and Hong Kong.

Early data suggests the new variant could have a higher reinfection risk than previous variants.

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The Netherlands also announced a new tightening of COVID-19 rules on Friday, with more stringent timings placed on opening hours of non-essential businesses and encouragements to stay at home where possible.

In Germany, the federal disease control agency recorded soaring coronavirus cases, with Germany’s outgoing health minister, Jens Spahn, labelling the situation “dramatically serious, to the extent that it has never been at any point in this pandemic”.

He added: “It is half an hour after midnight, but some people have still failed to hear the alarm.”

He had previously issued a stark warning that Germans will be “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the end of the winter.

This came after Europe’s largest economy passed the 100,000 COVID-19 deaths milestone on Thursday, becoming the fifth country in Europe to do so.

In France, Health minister Olivier Véran announced on Thursday anyone over the age of 18 would be eligible for a booster COVID-19 vaccine.

The French government also made masks mandatory for all indoor settings.

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