Covid in Europe: Swiss deploy army again, Poland to make jabs mandatory for some

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Covid In Europe: Swiss Deploy Army Again, Poland To Make Jabs Mandatory For Some Covid In Europe: Swiss Deploy Army Again, Poland To Make Jabs Mandatory For Some
A tourist wearing a protective face mask walks past a Christmas tree in the Alpine resort of Verbier in Switzerland. Photo: Getty Images.
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Switzerland will deploy up to 2,500 military personnel to help authorities cope with soaring Covid-19 cases, Poland will introduce compulsory vaccinations for some workers and Austria will lift a general lockdown - but keep one in place for the unvaccinated.

Switzerland and tiny neighbour Liechtenstein have reported more than one million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and nearly 11,300 deaths from the disease since the pandemic broke out last year.

Cases have been rising again, straining some hospitals as the government tries to keep the economy open amid what it calls a "critical" situation. Last week, it tightened rules on wearing masks and producing a certificate to prove a person is vaccinated or has recovered from the virus.

Switzerland, which used the military twice last year to help out, will let cantons request help to care for or transport patients and to support vaccinations if their civil defence, fire department and private-sector resources are inadequate.

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The government said it will ask parliament to approve the measure, that will run until March 31st.

Nearly 79 per cent of hospital intensive care units are now occupied, of which Covid patients account for just over 30 per cent.

Only 66 per cent of the Swiss population - or three out of four people aged 12 or older - is fully vaccinated despite repeated public campaigns to encourage holdouts to get jabbed.

Poland

Poland will introduce compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for doctors, teachers and security service personnel from March 1st, the health minister said on Tuesday, as he announced a raft of new measures designed to curb the spread of the virus.

While the number of daily cases in the European Union's largest eastern member has stabilised, it remains at a high level and authorities fear that the new Omicron variant could trigger a jump in infections.

"There are no signals of a clear downward trend, and... there is a risk that the Omicron mutation will appear," Adam Niedzielski told a news conference. "These two factors require us to take decisive action."

Poland has not reported any cases of the Omicron variant yet.

Mr Niedzielski said the limit on the number of people allowed in public spaces such as restaurants and cinemas would be lowered to 30 per cent, not including vaccinated people, from the current 50 per cent. Businesses will be required to check customers' Covid certificates.

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Nightclubs will be closed from December 15th, and on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day only 100 people will be allowed to enter, not counting those who have been vaccinated.

Schools will return to distance learning for periods just before and after the Christmas holiday.

Austria

The unvaccinated will stay in lockdown when Austria lifts its wider general lockdown on Sunday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed on Tuesday, a day after he took office.

Austria went into lockdown two weeks ago to counter a surge in daily Covid-19 infections to record levels, with restaurants, bars, theatres and non-essential shops shut to all but take-away business. Hotels are closed to tourists.

Infections have plunged since, but intensive care bed occupancy is still rising.

A week before that general lockdown, people not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus were placed under lockdown, barring them from roughly the same places that are now shut, and only allowed to leave home for the same limited number of reasons as the whole country now such as going to work.

"The lockdown for the unvaccinated is staying," Mr Nehammer told a news conference, while confirming that the wider lockdown would be lifted on Sunday as planned.

However, details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria's nine provinces.

"For all the unvaccinated who are suffering from the fact they are staying in lockdown, there is a clear offer: you can come out of it if you seize the chance to get vaccinated," Mr Nehammer said.

Spain

Spain's health commission on Tuesday approved vaccinations against Covid-19 for children aged five to 11, following a recommendation by the European Union's health regulator late last month.

Spanish authorities expect to start vaccinating children on December 13th as the first doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine are expected arrive, health minister Carolina Darias told reporters in Brussels where she was attending a meeting of EU health ministers.

The decision comes as the country, with a nationwide vaccination rate of nearly 80 per cent, seeks to address an acceleration of Covid-19 cases. Inoculating children and young people, who can unwittingly transmit Covid-19 to others, is considered a critical step towards taming the pandemic.

EU countries such as Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic have already approved vaccinations for children under 12.

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