Italy, the Netherlands also head for a hard lockdown over the holiday season.
Europe is plunging into darkness ahead of this year’s Christmas season as Germany and the United Kingdom tighten their already harsh coronavirus lockdowns.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced the so-called “tier 4” restrictions for London and the south-east of England. “Tier 4 restrictions may spell an end to Christmas plans, with those living under the new top tier thought to be prevented from meeting other households over the holiday,” British newspaper The Guardian reported.
The announcement comes as the UK battles a new strain of the Wuhan virus, regarded to be “much more infectious,” media reports claim. “The spread is being driven by the new variant of the virus,” Prime Minister Johnson told the nation of Saturday. “It appears to spread more easily and may be up to 70% more transmissable [sic] than the earlier strain.”
This is a U-turn by Johnson. Just a few day ago he dubbed it “inhuman” to place restrictions on Christmas. “I want to be clear we don’t want to, as I say, to ban Christmas, to cancel it,” he said on Wednesday. “And I think that would be frankly inhuman and against the instincts of many people in this country.”
The restrictions come despite the UK rolling out a nationwide vaccination drive. More than 300,000 Britons have been vaccinated since December 8, government sources confirm.
The UK’s Sky News reported the latest measures to stem the spread of the Chinese pandemic:
Millions of people will no longer be allowed mix with other households at Christmas, with a new Tier 4 level of COVID restrictions now in force.
In a dramatic move, prompted by fears over a new strain of coronavirus, all of those areas previously in Tier 3 in the South East – including London – moved to the new Tier 4 on Sunday.
And, in further stark action across the rest of England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that the planned five-day easing of restrictions over the festive period will be limited to a single day.
“Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” he said at a Downing Street news conference. (…)
Mr Johnson ditched his previous plans for a five-day relaxation of COVID rules over Christmas and told people in Tier 4 areas they will no longer be allowed to form “Christmas bubbles” with other households.
Meanwhile, outside the South East, people will still be allowed to mix in private homes with up to two other households, but now only on Christmas Day.
“When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defence,” Mr Johnson said.
“As your prime minister, I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.”
Germany is also going into a “hard lockdown” over the Christmas season. Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday told Germans to see their loved ones on “Skype” instead of getting together during one of the holiest times of the year.
Germany recorded close to 10,000 coronavirus deaths so far this month, double last month’s fatalities. “The second wave is proving to be significantly more deadly than the first,” German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle noted. “Over the past few days, Germany has been reporting around 500 deaths a day, and over 30,000 new infections on certain days.”
Berlin is expected to kick off the nationwide coronavirus vaccination on December 27.
Reuters reported Merkel’s message to the Germans ahead of Christmas:
Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans on Saturday to avoid visiting family members over Christmas and to use video calls instead for greetings, the way service members stationed abroad do, as the country battles COVID-19.
Germany is struggling with a rise in coronavirus infections and deaths. Praise for Merkel for having tamed the first wave has turned to criticism of her perceived failure to tackle the second. (…)
Merkel has been making emotional appeals ahead of Christmas and the New Year, urging Germans to avoid unnecessary travel and to limit social contacts to an absolute mininum as health experts warn of a spike in infections over the holidays.
The surging numbers shatter the myth of German ‘exceptionalism’ in dealing with the Chinese pandemic. The mainstream media have long feted Merkel as model for the United States, whereas President Donald Trump was mocked and maligned at every step of the way since the outbreak.
“A German Exception? Why the Country’s Coronavirus Death Rate Is Low,” The New York Times wondered in July. “How Germany got coronavirus right,” London’s Financial Times asked around the same time. “From extensive testing to early track and trace, Germany is a model for tackling the disease,” the business daily declared.
With reality now overtaking the media narrative, Germany’s state-run Deutsche Welle admitted on Saturday: “The country, which received widespread praise for its handling of the first wave of the pandemic, has failed to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus during the second wave, despite implementing a nationwide lockdown.”
France, which is on a nationwide night-time curfew since December 15, is expected to ease the restriction on the Christmas eve. The measures will be in place on the New Year’s eve to prevent large gatherings, the BBC reported.
French President Emmanuel Macron became the latest world leader to contract the Chinese virus. He is recovering after testing positive on Thursday. “The medical condition of the president is stable compared with Friday,” the Elysee presidential palace confirmed Saturday.
Italy, one of Europe’s worst hit countries, will impose lockdowns over the Christmas and the New Year, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Friday. The Netherlands is also under a stricter lockdown since December 15.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.