Over 60s in Greece face fine if not vaccinated

Updated / Tuesday, 30 Nov 2021 16:59

People queue to get vaccinated against Covid-19, in Aristotelous Square, in Thessaloniki

Greece will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for people aged 60 and over, as the country grapples with a new surge in coronavirus cases.

Authorities said they would impose a €100 fine on every individual over the age of 60 who was not vaccinated.

The measure would apply each month from 16 January onwards.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he struggled with the decision, but it was necessary to protect more than half a million elderly Greeks who had failed to get the jab.

"Its the price to pay for health," he said.

About 63% of Greece's around 11 million population is fully vaccinated.

While vaccine appointments have picked up in recent weeks, health ministry data shows there are 520,000 people over the age of 60 who have failed to get a jab.

Greece this month barred unvaccinated people from indoors spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms as daily Covid-19 cases hit record highs.

It has recorded 931,183 infections and 18,067 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.

Dutch find Omicron a week earlier than thought

Dutch health authorities said that the new Covid-19 variant was present in the Netherlands a week earlier than previously believed and checks are under way to see how far it has spread.

The RIVM National Health and Environment Institute said it "has found the corona variant Omicron in two test samples that had already been taken in the Netherlands... on November 19 and 23".

The first cases in the Netherlands had been thought to be the 14 Omicron infections on two KLM flights from South Africa that arrived in Amsterdam on Friday, 26 November.

The two earlier Dutch infections also came before South Africa first reported the new strain on 24 November to the World Health Organization, which has designated Omicron a variant of concern.

"It is not yet clear whether the people concerned (in the earlier cases) have also been to southern Africa," the RIVM said, adding that the people had been informed and municipal health services had now started contact investigations.

With 16 confirmed cases, the Netherlands has one of the highest numbers in Europe of the new strain.

Norwegians should wear face masks in crowded places, PM says

Norwegians should wear face masks on public transport and in other crowded places amid a surge in coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere has said.

He also urged municipalities to accelerate a drive to give booster shots to all adults, but did not call for a widespread use of digital "corona passes".

"Vaccination is key to our Covid-19 strategy," Ms Stoere told parliament.

"We can avoid a lockdown," he added.

Norway in September ended all domestic coronavirus restrictions, but opposition parties in recent days called on the government to take action to prevent the spread of the virus and thus avoid a hard lockdown of society.

While 88% of adults in Norway have received at least two vaccine doses against Covid-19, and 71% of the overall population has been inoculated, hospitalisations and mortality are rising.

The government on 12 November announced it would offer booster vaccine shots to everyone aged 18 and older and give municipalities the option of using digital "corona passes", but this has not halted the rise of infection.

Norway uses vaccines made by BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna in its national rollout, which since September included everyone aged 12 and over.

German, Austrian and Danish Covid-19 rates fall

The Covid-19 incidence rate has dropped slightly in Germany and Austria and stabilised in the Netherlands since the three countries introduced new measures to curb the spread of the virus, new data showed.

After becoming hot spots in a new wave of infections in western Europe, Austria went into a fourth full lockdown last week and the Netherlands and Germany imposed new restrictions.

Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported that 452.2 people per 100,000 were infected in the last week, down slightly from 452.4 on Monday. It was the first decline since early November.

Despite this, the number of new cases rose slightly compared to last week to 45,753, and another 388 deaths were recorded - the highest daily figure since early March. That bought the overall death toll to 101,344.

Austria reported 8,186 new infections today. The incidence per 100,000 was at 936, down from a peak of 1,107 on 22 November.

Daily infections in Austria peaked above 15,000 the week before last. The previous highest peak was 9,586 in November 2020, when a national lockdown was ordered.

The Netherlands reported 21,443 new cases on Monday as new infections roughly stabilised at record levels in the past week, with testing facilities reaching maximum capacity.

About 886 cases per 100,000 inhabitants were registered in the week that ended Monday. That was up 3% from the previous week - the slowest weekly growth since early October.

Meanwhile, the pandemic in Denmark is showing signs of stabilising, the country's health minister said today, citing vaccinations and third jabs as possible causes.

German MPs to vote on compulsory Covid jabs by year's end: Scholz

German parliamentarians will vote on compulsory Covid vaccinations for the public by the year's end, incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, as calls grow for the mandatory action to boost inoculation rates.

"My proposal is that we do not act as a government because it's a question of conscience. Rather a draft bill - or different draft bills - could be put up by parliamentary circles to the Bundestag on that," he said.

The compulsory vaccinations should be in force "in the beginning of February or March so we must move quickly now," he added.

German constitutional court rules partial lockdown lawful

Germany's constitutional court has ruled that sweeping restrictions to stem coronavirus infections - such as curfews, school closures and contact restrictions - were lawful, in a decision that could pave the way for further curbs.

The verdict came hours before Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to meet with her successor, Olaf Scholz, as well as regional leaders of Germany's 16 states on whether to toughen up restrictions to tame raging infections.

Helge Braun, Ms Merkel's chief of staff, told the RTL broadcaster the court decision would show "which of two paths we should go down".

The meeting, due to be held remotely, comes amid a record wave of infections in Germany.

The country recorded 45,753 new infections today and 388 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency.

Europe's biggest economy has over the last weeks began requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 or have recently tested negative before they can travel on public transport or enter workplaces.

Several of the worst-hit areas have gone further, cancelling large events like Christmas markets and barring the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.

French health regulator backs vaccines for children aged 5-11

France's health regulator has backed vaccinating fragile children aged 5 to 11 against Covid-19 if they were at risk of developing a serious form of the disease, or if they lived with vulnerable people.

Last week, the European Union's drug regulator approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.

The decision paved the way for this age group to be given a first shot as Europe struggles with a surge in cases.

Slovenia halts Johnson & Johnson vaccinations after death

Slovenia has announced that it will no longer use the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after experts confirmed a 20-year-old died earlier this year because of the jab.

The Alpine EU member suspended vaccinations with Johnson & Johnson in September after the woman died of a brain hemorrhage and blood clots just days after getting vaccinated.

An expert commission confirmed in a report that the woman suffered a rare blood clotting condition, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia.

"The temporary suspension of vaccinations with Janssen (produced by Johnson & Johnson), in force until now, will become permanent," Health Minister Janez Poklukar said after the commission published its findings.