Paris canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks. Denmark has closed theaters, concert halls and museums. Ireland is again forcing pubs and restaurants to close at 8 p.m. And the Netherlands is expected to announce a strict new lockdown later Saturday.
With coronavirus cases surging across Europe as the Omicron variant spreads, governments are imposing new restrictions across the continent, triggering plans for protests in several major cities.
“None of this is easy,” Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said Friday night, saying the new restrictions were needed to protect lives and livelihoods from the resurgent virus, The Associated Press reported. “We are all exhausted with COVID and the restrictions it requires. The twists and turns, the disappointments and the frustrations take a heavy toll on everyone. But it is the reality that we are dealing with.”
In the U.K., where confirmed infections soared to new records this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged not to shut the country down, but The Sun reported that plans are being drawn up for limiting movement, and possibly a two-week lockdown, after Christmas. Mask and vaccine mandates have already been imposed.
Meanwhile, Egyptian health authorities said they have identified the country’s first cases of Omicron. The World Health Organization said the variant has been reported in 89 countries, and the number of cases is doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in places where it is spreading in the community, Reuters reported.
In an attempt to stem the spread, Canada said Friday it would be reinstate a testing requirement for returning travelers who have left the country, even as it lifted travel bans on 10 African countries, the Toronto Star reported. Ontario has also reimposed some restrictions, including limiting indoor gatherings and restaurant hours.