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Illustration of the Pass Sanitaire (Green pass) next to a restaurant in the center of Paris
The French health pass has been in use already for monthsImage: Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/picture alliance
HealthFrance

COVID: New French rules increase pressure for booster shots

January 15, 2022

Half a million vaccinated people in France have lost their proof of vaccination and will require boosters. Meanwhile, China has begun to shut down another large city. DW has the latest.

https://p.dw.com/p/45ZeZ

New rules came into force in France on Saturday to determine the validity of coronavirus health passes.

From Saturday, people who were vaccinated more than seven months no longer count as fully vaccinated and need to get a booster shot to validate the proof of vaccination necessary for many everyday tasks.

It is estimated that the rule affects some 560,000 people. The health pass with a valid vaccine status — or negative test or recovered status — is mandatory for entering bars, restaurants and many shops.

An omicron-fueled fifth wave is tearing through France, bringing the infection rate up to 2,829 new infections per 100,000 people in the past seven days. However, the vast majority of people have been vaccinated at least twice, with less than 10% of the adult population still refusing to do so.

The French National Assembly also approved the introduction of a new COVID-19 vaccine pass to replace the health pass. This will remove the option of a recent negative test as valid evidence of being coronavirus-free.

French teachers stage walkout

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille to protest the new rules and the planned vaccine mandate. 

Crowds chanted, "No to the vaccine," and some shouted, "Freedom for [Novak] Djokovic," referring to the tennis star fighting against deportation after the Australian government canceled his visa for not being vaccinated against COVID. 

"Novak is kind of our standard-bearer at the moment," one demonstrator told the French AFP news agency in Bordeaux, southwestern France.

Here's a roundup of the latest developments on COVID-19 from around the world:

Europe

In the UK, Tottenham called for "clarity and consistency" from the English Premier League after a game against Arsenal scheduled for Sunday was called off.

The Premier League approved Arsenal's request to postpone the game as the club did not have enough players to field. The Gunners said a number of its players were injured, tested positive for the coronavirus and were away with their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations.

According to COVID-19 regulations say clubs can apply for postponements if fewer than 13 players and a goalkeeper are available.

"We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved," Spurs said in a statement

"The original intention of the guidance was to deal with player availability directly affected by COVID cases, resulting in depleted squads that when taken together with injuries would result in the club being unable to field a team,'' Tottenham said. 

A nurse was arrested in Sicily for pretending to vaccinate people against COVID-19. Italian police said the nurse was caught on camera emptying the injection into a cloth before sticking the empty needle into people's arms.

People opposed to the COVID-19 vaccination apparently bribed her to issue vaccination certificates without actually inoculating them.

Italy: Vaccination where Cinema Paradiso was filmed

Also in Italy, some 5,000 people protested in Rome against COVID measures, according to Italian media. 

The Italian government recently tightened coronavirus restrictions and introduced compulsory vaccination for people over 50. Further measures are also due to come into force in February. 

Germany's seven-day infection rate has again reached a record high of 497.1 new infections per 100,000 people in the previous week. The record follows the highest single-day number of infections recorded on Friday as experts warn that the omicron variant has become prevalent in the country. 

Thousands of people across Germany participated in protests against COVID measures. Rallies in Hamburg, Düsseldorf and the southwestern city of Freiburg had the biggest turnout. Counter protests, calling for "solidarity instead of conspiracy theories," were also held. 

Scholz supports COVID vaccine mandate

Neighboring Austria also saw thousands protest in Vienna against the government's plan to introduce mandatory vaccinations. 

The Austrian parliament is scheduled to vote next week on a vaccine mandate. 

Unvaccinated people in Turkey will no longer have to provide a negative PCR test to get on planes, trains and buses or to go to the cinema, theater or concerts, the state-owned Anadolu agency announced.

Asia

In China's capital, Beijing, the first locally transmitted case of omicron has been reported. It comes less than three weeks before the Beijing Olympic Winter Games.

Organizers still hope to create a virus-proof "bubble'' for thousands of international visitors to the games. 

China also imposed more restrictions in the city of Zhuhai — with a population of 2.4 million — after discovering seven cases of omicron. Authorities began testing all of the city's inhabitants on Friday after the discovery of a case in the nearby city of Zhongshan.

Bus services in Zhuhai were put on hold on Saturday and gyms, cinemas, beauty salons and other businesses were forced to close. Inhabitants have been banned from leaving the city unless for emergencies, and only then with a negative test.

China's zero-COVID policy has been put under strain by the spread of the ultra-contagious omicron variant. Authorities are fighting outbreaks in several cities.

Japan has reported record numbers of infections in the prefecture of Okinawa, home to 70% of US military facilities in the country.

The island recorded 1,829 new cases on Saturday. The prefecture's governor, Denny Tamaki, said he was furious about the inadequate controls at US bases that have led to the spread of the virus to the civilian population.

India's election commission extended its ban on political rallies and roadshows in five states due to rising COVID-19 cases. The ban includes the key battleground state Uttar Pradesh where voters will go to the polls next month.

The northern states of Punjab and Uttarakhand, tourist hotspot Goa and the northeastern state of Manipur will also hold elections in the coming months.

India reported 268,833 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, and deaths from COVID-19 rose by 402 to 485,752.

India sees steep rise in COVID cases

Middle East

On Saturday, Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate but continue working from home.

"I feel good and will isolate in the next few days," Lieberman wrote on Twitter. 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tested positive on Monday.

fb, lo, ab/wmr (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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