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'Jabbed, cured or dead', Germany warns as Europe battles COVID-19 surge

Michelle Fitzpatrick - Agence France-Presse
'Jabbed, cured or dead', Germany warns as Europe battles COVID-19 surge
People stand in a reportedly 700-meter-long queue to get vaccinated in the Philharmonic Hall "Elbphilharmonie" (inseen) in the northern German city of Hamburg on November 22, 2021, as a vaccination center has been openend in the philharmonic amid a surge of infections during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
AFP / MORRIS MAC MATZEN

BERLIN, Germany — Germans faced the stark warning Monday that they would be "vaccinated, cured or dead" from Covid by the end of winter, while Austria returned to a partial lockdown as Europe battles an upsurge in the pandemic.

Belgium and the Netherlands are still reeling from clashes that rocked weekend protests against new anti-Covid measures.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte labelled three nights of unrest "pure violence" by "idiots" and his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo called violence at a 35,000-strong protest in Brussels "absolutely unacceptable".

Europe's return to the pandemic's epicentre has been blamed on a sluggish vaccine uptake in some nations, the highly contagious Delta variant and colder weather moving people indoors again.

"Probably by the end of this winter, as is sometimes cynically said, pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead," German Health Minister Jens Spahn said, as he urged more citizens to get the jab.

But in a stark reminder that the vaccine does not necessarily stop infection, French Prime Minister Jean Castex tested positive on Monday despite being double-jabbed.

Castex, who will isolate for 10 days, tested positive after a meeting in Brussels with De Croo, whose office later announced he and several ministers would quarantine. 

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany's current Covid curbs — including barring the unvaccinated from certain public spaces — "are not enough".

She told a meeting of leaders of her conservative CDU party that the situation was "highly dramatic", according to participants.

With intensive care beds swiftly filling up, Germany's worst-hit regions have ordered new shutdowns, including the closure of Christmas markets.

'Very confusing '

The restrictions mirror those in neighbouring Austria, which closed shops, restaurants and festive markets on Monday, the most drastic restrictions seen in Western Europe for months.

Its 8.9 million people are allowed to leave home only to go to work, shop for essentials or exercise.

The Alpine nation also plans a vaccine mandate from February 1, one of few places in the world to so far to announce such a move.

"Look around you, nobody is here," said Anelia Lyotin, manning a stall in Vienna selling nuts and dried fruit.

"This situation now is bad for everyone and the only solution is that everyone gets vaccinated," said the 36-year-old. 

Across the border in Slovakia, unvaccinated people were also facing curbs blocking them from entering non-essential stores.

'Dictatorship'

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in European cities at the weekend.

Dozens were arrested in the Netherlands over unrest that began in Rotterdam on Friday, and Belgian police fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters on Sunday.

A crowd of 40,000 marched through Vienna on Saturday decrying "dictatorship".

French security forces arrived in Guadeloupe after a week of unrest over Covid measures, with President Emmanuel Macron pleading for calm on the French Caribbean island. 

The Red Cross said in a report on Monday that the pandemic had damaged the "fabric of society".

It said that women and migrants were among the most affected by secondary effects of the crisis such as income loss, food insecurity, reduced protection against violence and worsening mental health issues.

Boosters

Austria's decision to reimpose a partial lockdown came after Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg criticised the "shamefully low" vaccine rate — 66 percent compared to France's 75 percent — and banned the unjabbed from public spaces.

When that proved ineffective, he announced a nationwide lockdown, with an evaluation after 10 days.

In Germany, the EU's most populous nation, just 68 percent of the population is fully jabbed.

The country has urged all vaccinated adults to get a booster jab to combat waning vaccine efficacy after six months — a call echoed by two French advisory bodies on Monday.

The European Medicines' Agency said it was evaluating an application by Johnson & Johnson to be approved as a top-up shot, having already approved Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters. — with Denise HRUBY in Vienna

COVID-19

GERMANY

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 2, 2022 - 9:56am

As the pandemic, and quarantine restrictions around it, stretches on, some sectors have revived protests against lockdowns and, in some jursidictions, mandatory vaccination. 

Photo: Demonstrators march during a "Men in Black" protest against new government Covid-19 restrictions in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 20, 2021. 

March 2, 2022 - 9:56am

Riot police clashed with demonstrators outside New Zealand's parliament on Wednesday, using pepper spray and making dozens of arrests as they moved to end a long-running protest against coronavirus restrictions.

Hundreds of officers took to Wellington's streets before dawn to clear roads around parliament that have been clogged by protesters' vehicles for more than three weeks.

Ending a previous light-touch approach, officers with riot shields advanced on protesters yelling "Move! Move!", pulling down tents, and deploying a large forklift to remove cars and campervans to vehicle transporters.

Demonstrators who resisted were pepper-sprayed, and fighting erupted.

Police reported some protesters armed with pitchforks, but said they "gained significant ground" during the operation, which continued into Wednesday afternoon.

"We've seen tactics (from protesters) today including spraying fire extinguishers at the police line, the throwing of paint, early on we saw weapons," commissioner Andrew Coster said.

He said three officers received minor injuries and there were 36 arrests.

The force warned Wellington residents and office workers to steer clear of the area. — AFP

February 21, 2022 - 8:33am

Several thousand people rallied in Madrid on Sunday in support of political rising star Isabel Diaz Ayuso, currently riding high in the polls after she helped open up the capital’s bars and restaurants amid pandemic fatigue.

Supporters took to the streets to back the party's head of the Madrid region after she claimed the national leadership of the main opposition conservative Popular Party tried to get rid of her.  

Gathering outside the PP's headquarters, they waved flags and chanted slogans, calling for the head of the party to resign. — AFP

February 20, 2022 - 11:07am

Ottawa interim police Chief Steve Bell said Saturday significant "progress" had been made to clear protesters from the Canadian capital but that the operation was "not over."

"Today we've made some very important progress in safely removing this unlawful protest from our streets," Bell told a news conference.

But, he added, "This operation is still moving forward, it is not over and it will take more time." — AFP

February 17, 2022 - 10:23am

Canadian police issued an ultimatum Wednesday to protesters who've been choking Ottawa streets for 20 days to leave the capital, as provincial and US state leaders called for an end to the cross-border vaccine requirement that sparked the trucker-led movement.

Officials, meanwhile, announced a negotiated peaceful end to the last of several recent blockades by protesters of border crossings between Canada and the United States.

"You must leave the area now," Ottawa police said in a notice distributed to truckers outside parliament. 

Anyone blocking streets or assisting others in doing so will be arrested and face charges, as well as fines and seizures of their trucks, the statement said.

Police also warned that anyone charged or convicted for taking part in the illegal demonstration may, in addition to criminal penalties, be barred from traveling to the United States. -- AFP

February 13, 2022 - 10:06am

Paris police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines on Saturday to break up a convoy of vehicles that attempted to block traffic in a protest over coronavirus restrictions and rising living costs.

Inspired by truckers who shut down the Canadian capital Ottawa, thousands of demonstrators from across France made their way to Paris in a self-proclaimed "freedom convoy" of cars, trucks and vans.

The police, who had banned the protest, moved quickly to try to clear cars at entry points to the city, handing out fines for participation in an unauthorised protest.

But more than 100 vehicles managed to converge on the Champs-Elysees, where police used teargas to disperse protesters in scenes reminiscent of the "yellow vest" anti-government riots of 2018-2019. — AFP

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