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Coronavirus digest: Germany navigated pandemic better than most — study

Rights in Germany, Sweden and New Zealand held up well during COVID, a new study has found. Meanwhile, India has no plans to offer booster shots just yet. Follow DW for the latest.

Germans visit a Christmas market in Duisburg

A new study has found that Germans benefitted during the pandemic from strong governance and democracy

German democracy and state institutions have proved robust through the coronavirus pandemic, a study of 29 industrialized countries by the Bertelsmann Foundation has found.

Based on 94 indicators, the study placed Germany, along with Sweden and New Zealand, at the top of countries where the rule of law was maintained.

The three main criteria used were: resilience of democracy, organization of crisis management and the robustness of the economy and the welfare state.

The study, conducted by more than 70 analysts, covered the period November 2019 to January 2021.

The countries surveyed included European Union member states, and members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Regarding the resilience of their democracies, Poland, Hungary and Turkey scored worst.

"The governments there used the pandemic to restrict their citizens' rights over the longer term," it found.

States where freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary and individual rights were already in jeopardy before the pandemic, saw "further steps backward that are cause for concern," the study found.

It noted that in most countries, their parliaments were not closely involved in decision-making, primarily because governments were acting under time pressure and it said rivalries between government departments were another negative factor.

Here is a roundup of other coronavirus news from around the world:

Watch video 12:01

COVID-19 Special: Where did omicron come from?

Europe

In Germany, parliament has voted to make vaccinations a legal requirement for medical and care staff from March.

The legislation, which was put forward by the new coalition government, received overwhelming support from both legislative chambers and across the political spectrum.

As a result, staff working in hospitals and care homes will have to be vaccinated or prove they have recovered from the virus if they want to come to work. Showing a recent negative COVID test will not be sufficient.

The government is also planning to change the law next year to extend mandatory vaccinations to the entire population.

Watch video 03:06

Vaccine mandate for German health workers – Jared Reed reports

The Czech Republic will make vaccines mandatory for those over 60 from March 1, the government said on Friday.

The obligation will also apply to health workers, police officers, firefighters and the military.

The new regulation was approved just a week before a new government is set to take over, amid opposition from the new health minister nominee.

Center-right leader Petr Fiala, who won a general election in October, will become prime minister.

Slovakia has ended its two-week nationwide lockdown, allowing all shops and services such as hairdressers and fitness studios to reopen to those who have been vaccinated.

Restaurants, however, will remain closed, while hotels and guest houses are allowed to accommodate business travelers but not tourists.

Switzerland has proposed further tightening restrictions on public life, with the government saying a limited lockdown may be needed.

Regional authorities have been asked to consider expanding the requirement for proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus for access to many indoor venues.

Under one proposal, vaccinated individuals would additionally need to show a negative test to enter places like bars, restaurants and discotheques where masks cannot be worn.

Under an alternate proposal, such locations would close entirely.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the omicron coronavirus variant is growing exponentially and would overtake Delta as the dominant strain within days.

Sturgeon announced tightened self-isolation rules and urged people not to hold Christmas parties.

English Premier League clubs have been ordered to return to emergency protocols to limit the spread of the virus.

Fans will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend sporting events with crowds of more than 10,000 from next Wednesday.

Sunday's match between Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur has been called of after eight Spurs players and five members of staff tested positive.

In the Netherlands, the health council on Friday advised the government to administer COVID shots to children aged 5-11. The council had until now only recommended that children with underlying health issues be vaccinated.

The advisory body said that it was making the recommendation even though most children experience mild symptoms from the virus.

Romania has introduced new travel restrictions and isolation measures for people entering the country.

From Friday, travelers will need to provide proof of a negative test, while the unvaccinated will have to quarantine.  From December 20, passenger location forms will also be implemented to improve the traceability of infections.

Watch video 02:55

Portugal tightens rules despite high vaccination rate

Middle East

Israel is extending its ban on tourists entering the country for another 10 days, due to fears of the spread of the new omicron variant. Existing measures had been set to expire on Monday.

The decision means that the borders will remain closed to foreigners until shortly before Christmas. In addition, anyone returning to Israel from any country — including vaccinated Israelis — will continue to be quarantined for at least three days upon entry.

Asia

South Korea is witnessing its worst surge since the start of the pandemic, as infections surpassed 7,000 for the third consecutive day on Friday.

Nationwide, hospitals have been ordered to designate 2,000 more beds for COVID patients.

In Seoul and the nearby metropolitan region, around 90% of intensive care units (ICU) are already occupied.

Critics have blamed the spread on complacency by the government, which dramatically lowered social distancing rules at the start of November.

The health ministry in India said Friday there was no immediate plan to authorize vaccine boosters.

Senior health official Vinod Kumar Paul told a news briefing that government experts were studying data on boosters but "our emphatic view...is to (first) cover every adult with (just) the primary two doses."

The government has said this target can be achieved by January.

Around 87% of India's adults, estimated at 939 million people, have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 54% of them have received the full two.

India's daily new COVID-19 cases have hovered around 10,000 for the past few weeks and the omicron variant was first detected there a week ago.

Researchers in Japan have developed masks that use ostrich antibodies to detect COVID by glowing under ultraviolet light.

The discovery by Yasuhiro Tsukamoto and his team at Kyoto Prefectural University in western Japan could provide for low-cost testing of the virus at home, they said in a press release.

Previous research has shown that the birds have strong resistance to disease.

Hong Kong will require inbound travelers from the United States to spend seven days at a government quarantine camp.

The decision comes after a passenger coming from the US tested positive for the omicron variant.

Africa

The new omicron variant is driving up infection figures in South Africa and is now increasingly spreading to older people, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.

In the country's worst-hit region — Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria — the number of cases rose by 400% week-on-week.

Tests showed that the omicron variant was behind about 70% of the cases.

However, the figures appear to confirm initial observations of relatively mild symptoms and shorter hospital stays, according to scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Research by South African professor Alex Sigal also showed that while omicron reduces vaccine protection, they still offer up to 70% protection, depending on the number of antibodies developed.

mm/jsi (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Watch video 01:40

COVID-19 in S. Africa: Scientists see omicron rapid spread

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