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Governments around the world rush into lockdown amid warnings Omicron risks overwhelming public health systems

© Robin Utrecht/ShutterstockA girl receives the Covid-19 jag at a vaccination centre in Nieuwegein in The Netherlands
A girl receives the Covid-19 jag at a vaccination centre in Nieuwegein in The Netherlands.

Governments around the world are planning post-Christmas restrictions as Omicron races around the globe.

New rules have been announced amid warnings that Omicron risks overwhelming public health systems in many countries.

Germany and Portugal are among nations announcing post-Christmas curbs and greater social distancing measures while Israel has announced plans for a fourth jab for the over-60s.

France has warned cases are on course to pass 100,000 per day, while Spain last week reported its highest number of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

The World Health Organisation’s European head Hans Kluge has warned countries to brace for a “significant surge” in Covid-19 cases as Omicron spreads.

He said: “We can see another storm coming. Within weeks, Omicron will dominate in more countries of the region, pushing already stretched health systems further to the brink.”

Germany is currently operating a complex patchwork of varying regional approaches, with 17 different health authorities bringing in different measures.

Lower Saxony spokeswoman Anke Porksen said: “We are convinced that a general compulsory vaccination for all should now come more quickly.

“But we also have to realise that it is also a considerable restriction of freedom if we shimmy from one protective measure to the next.”

“That’s why we think compulsory vaccination is necessary.”

© Michael Sohn/AP/Shutterstock
Covid testing in Berlin (Pic: Michael Sohn/AP/Shutterstock)

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the increase in daily infections in the country, currently at about 70,000, was being driven by the Omicron variant, which he said was likely to become the dominant variant by early January.

France began vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11 on Wednesday.

Bars and restaurants in Finland are having to close at 10pm.

Sweden is asking people to work from home if possible, and customers must be seated in cafes and bars.

Covid-19 vaccination passes have become obligatory for Tunisians.

Nicola Sturgeon urges people to get boosted in Christmas message

In Israel, those over the age of 60 and medical teams will be eligible for a fourth Covid vaccination, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has announced.

Bennett said: “The citizens of Israel were the first in the world to receive the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and we are continuing to pioneer with the fourth dose as well.”

Meanwhile a drop in new Covid-19 cases in recent days may signal that South Africa’s dramatic Omicron surge has passed its peak.

While daily virus case counts are notoriously unreliable, they are offering hope that Omicron numbers may recede quickly after a ferocious spike.