Sunday

10th Dec 2023

Record-breaking Omicron wave sweeps across Europe

  • The EU's medicine agency raised concerns over the strategy of giving boosters every four months (Photo: The Focal Project)
Listen to article

Record number of new coronavirus infections were reported across Europe on Wednesday (12 January) as the milder but highly-contagious Omicron Covid-19 variant sweeps through the continent.

Germany reported 80,430 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest recorded in a single day since the pandemic began. The previous daily record, on 26 November last year, was more than 76,000.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The German death toll also rose by 384 on Wednesday, to reach 114,735, while around 75 percent of the population has had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, figures from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease showed.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers again on Wednesday he was in favour of mandatory vaccination.

The choice to be vaccinated was "not a decision you make just for yourself, and that's why mandatory vaccination is the right thing to do," Scholz said.

Almost two-thirds of Germans support mandatory vaccination, polls show.

After a parliamentary debate on the issue at the end of the month, a bill on making vaccination mandatory is expected to come to a vote in March.

Austria's daily coronavirus infections have also hit a new record, with the number of infections rising above 17,000 for the first time on Wednesday, to 17,006. The previous peak was last November.

Austria currently has in place a lockdown for the unvaccinated, and a 10PM closing time for bars and restaurants.

In Bulgaria, daily infections also reached a record high, at 7,062 on Wednesday - in the EU's least-vaccinated country.

More than 5,200 people were in hospital, including 580 in intensive care. In Sofia, planned operations have been suspended as hospitals prepared for Covid-19 patients.

Bulgarians have to wear masks indoors and have to show a health pass - vaccination or negative test - to go to restaurants and shopping malls.

The new government has offered a one-time cash reward for pensioners who get vaccinated or take a booster.

Around a thousand anti-vaccine protesters, organised by the ultra-nationalist Revival party, rallied against the health pass, and tried to storm the parliament in the capital on Wednesday.

Heavy police presence prevented the from entering the building while several people, including police officers, were injured during the clashes, AP reported.

The country's prime minister, Kiril Petkov, plus president Rumen Radev and senior ministers have gone into precautionary self-isolation on Tuesday after a participant at a meeting they all attended tested positive for the virus.

Belgium, France, and Italy too

Belgium, France, and Italy, meanwhile, also reported record number of new cases on Tuesday.

France reported 368,149 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day record of the pandemic.

"We have never before seen such numbers since the start of the health crisis," health minister Oliver Veran said.

The numbers reflect those registered by health authorities, and does not include self-tests or infected people who develop no symptoms, and are not aware of their contagiousness.

Nevertheless, the spread of Omicron variant is pushing the virus towards an endemic phase, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday.

"With the increase of immunity in population, and with Omicron, there will be a lot of natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination, we will be fast moving towards a scenario that will be closer to endemicity," Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy told reporters.

The EMA also expressed doubts about giving a fourth vaccine shot to people, saying repeated boosters were not a "sustainable" strategy in terms of immune response and the population's tiredness of repeated vaccination.

WHO: Omicron to infect over half of Europeans in two months

The World Health Organization said Omicron is likely to infect more than half of the population in Europe within the next two months, threatening healthcare systems. It warned that it is too early to consider Covid as an endemic virus.

Analysis

How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis

Moldova, Europe's poorest country, is working hard to combat tuberculosis. The country wants to be tuberculosis-free by 2030, at the same time as joining the EU. That's quite a challenge.

Member states stall on EU ban on forced-labour products

More than two years after the EU Commission first proposed a law on forced labour, inter-institutional negotiations have not started because member states cannot reach agreement — risking the text's adoption before the 2024 European Parliament elections.

Opinion

The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained

A European citizens' initiative — signed by 1.4 million people — saw the EU Commission promise to ban cages for 300 million farmed animals. Then the farming lobby got involved.

Opinion

'Pay or okay?' — Facebook & Instagram vs the EU

Since last week, Mark Zuckerberg's Meta corporation is forcing its European users to either accept their intrusive privacy practices — or pay €156 per year to access Facebook and Instagram without tracking advertising.

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us