(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Reuters/AFP/ Rome
• EU watchdog approves Moderna jab for ages 12 and up
• Germany tightens rules for unvaccinated travellers from Spain, Netherlands
• Turkey’s daily cases jump to 11,094, highest since May
• Covid-19 rises in Swedish cities as Delta outbreaks dominate
• Slovak police use teargas at protest over Covid-19 restrictions
Looking to counter the increasing menace of the coronavirus (Covid-19) Delta variant, a growing number of European countries are raising their defences and trying to pressure more people to get vaccinated to stay safe.
Italy on Thursday followed in the footsteps of France, announcing that proof of vaccination or immunity would shortly be mandatory for an array of activities, including indoor dining and entering places such as gyms, pools, museums and cinemas.
Greece made a vaccination certificate mandatory for anyone to be allowed into indoor restaurants and bars from last week, while dozens of Portuguese municipalities introduced weekend curbs for inside dining in early July.
“The Delta variant is even more of a threat than the other variants,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters, defending his decision to make the so-called Green Pass obligatory to participate in much of public life.
“The Green Pass is not arbitrary, but a necessary condition not to shut down the economy. Without vaccinations, everything will have to close again,” he said.
The daily number of new coronavirus infections recorded in Italy has doubled over the past week, hitting 5,143 yesterday, while in neighbouring France, daily cases have rocketed to almost 22,000 from 10,908 on July 16.
Unlike in past Covid-19 waves, deaths and hospitalisations have not progressed in lockstep with rising cases, thanks to mass vaccinations since the start of the year.
But with under 54% of adults fully inoculated in the European Union, governments fear there will still be tens of thousands more victims unless they speed up vaccinations.
In the week after French President Emmanuel Macron’s July 12 announcement of the bolstered health pass, a record 3.7mn French citizens signed up for a vaccination, according to the Doctolib health website.
Regional governors in Italy said there was a marked pick-up in bookings after Draghi spoke late on Thursday.
“I think the prime minister has achieved what he wanted to achieve,” said Giovanni Toti, head of the northwestern Liguria region.
Other European countries are also slowly tightening the screws, to a greater or lesser extent.
Yesterday Hungary made vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers as part of its efforts to contain the pandemic, while Malta this month became the first country in the European Union to ban any visitor over the age of 12 from entering unless fully vaccinated.
Yesterday the European medicines watchdog, the EMA, approved the use of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12-17, making it the second jab for adolescents for use on the continent.
“The use of the Spikevax vaccine in children from 12-17 years of age will be the same as in people aged 18 and above,” the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said, using the vaccine’s brand name.
The vaccine will be given in two injections, each four weeks apart.
The decision by the Amsterdam-based agency follows the approval of the first vaccine for European youngsters, by Pfizer/BioNTech in May.
The effects of the jab have been studied among 3,732 children aged 12-17, the EMA said.
“These effects are usually mild or moderate and improve within a few days from the vaccination,” the EMA said.
Germany is classifying Spain and the Netherlands as areas with a high incidence of coronavirus, which means that unvaccinated travellers returning from those countries will have to quarantine for at least five days.
The move coincides with the summer school break in Germany, when many families vacation on the sunny Mediterranean beaches of Spain or the North Sea coast of the Netherlands.
While nearly half of Germans are exempt from the quarantine rules because they have had two Covid-19 shots, only about 2% of those under 18 are fully vaccinated, a potential headache for families travelling with children and teenagers.
Turkey’s new coronavirus cases climbed yesterday above 10,000 for the first time since mid-May and hit a level of 11,094, according to health ministry data which also showed 60 people died due to Covid-19.
“If you want tomorrow to be better than today, comply with the measures. Get vaccinated,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter as he released the data.
Cases of Covid-19 have increased in Sweden’s main cities with the more contagious Delta having emerged as the dominant variant in the country, health authorities said on Friday, though it added infection levels nationally remained low.
Sweden reported 1,855 new cases of Covid-19 last week, a 24% increase compared to the previous week.
Around a quarter of new cases were linked to travel abroad, the heath authority said.
Riot police fired teargas at hundreds of demonstrators who blocked the entrance to Slovakia’s parliament and pelted the building with eggs yesterday as deputies debated legislation the protesters oppose on Covid-19 restrictions.
Some protesters chanted“Treason” and one carried a banner declaring“Stop corona fascism” over a draft law that would give people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 easier access to public events and spaces than those who have not.
Some protesters wrapped themselves in the national flag or waved it outside the hill-top parliament in the capital Bratislava.
One policewoman was slightly hurt, Slovak media quoted parliamentary speaker Boris Kollar as saying.
The protest continued peacefully and eventually dwindled after the police intervention.
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