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A sign in front of a shop in Gelsenkirchen tells people they can only enter if they are vaccinated or recovered from the virus
A sign in front of a shop in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, tells people they can only enter if they are vaccinated or recovered from the virusImage: Martin Meissner/AP Photo/picture alliance
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COVID digest: German officials urge caution on lifting curbs

February 6, 2022

Germany is under some pressure to follow several Nordic countries that eased restrictions meant to stem the winter wave. Meanwhile, Australia said it may soon reopen for tourism. Follow DW for the latest.

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Germany's Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Sunday warned against relaxing COVID restrictions too soon, as other European Union countries declare the pandemic over.

"Our strategy has worked well so far," Lauterbach told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "But if we loosen up too soon, we threaten our own success, risk creating new, dangerous infections and may prolong the [current] wave."

His comments were backed up by Vice Chancellor and Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck, who told the Funke media group newspapers: "Of course, we need a reopening plan, but the easing has to come at the right time."

Habeck added that the omicron wave has not yet been overcome and blamed the slightly lower vaccination rate in Germany, compared with other European countries. Germany recorded 133,173 new cases on Sunday and 41 new deaths. 

Several EU countries, including Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, have lifted all or most of their restrictions related to the pandemic.

Tracking long COVID in the blood

Here are the latest major coronavirus developments from around the world:

Asia

In China, a sharp drop in COVID cases among Beijing Olympics personnel is due to fewer airport arrivals, the organizing committee of the Games has said.

China detected 10 new cases among Olympic personnel on Saturday, down from 45 the previous day.

While competitions have not been seriously affected, dozens of athletes have tested positive and moved into isolation, affecting their preparations and training.

China remains isolated after adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards the virus, canceling nearly all international flights.

Taiwan's zero-COVID policy takes a toll

India's drug regulatory authority has approved Russia's Sputnik Light COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

Health authorities authorized Russia's two-dose Sputnik V last year. The RDIF said Sputnik Light can be used as a booster shot with other vaccines.

Indian Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar has died at the age of 92, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced.

The singer died of multiple organ failure at a hospital in Mumbai, her doctor Pratit Samdani told reporters. She was hospitalized on January 11 after contacting COVID-19.

South Korea has surpassed one million cases since the pandemic began, as health officials reported a daily record of 38,691 new infections.

The country adopted an aggressive strategy of tracking, tracing, masking and quarantining to blunt the initial wave, but the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant is driving cases to new highs.

The death toll has remained low in the highly vaccinated country, at 6,873, including 15 new deaths on Saturday.

Middle East

State media in Turkey has reported that four people have been detained for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife on social media.

According to Anadolu news agency more than 30 accounts were being investigated for remarks made about Erdogan and his wife Emine's COVID-19 infection.

On Saturday the Turkish president tweeted that the couple were experiencing mild symptoms.

Local media has reported that former national swimmer, Derya Büyükuncu, was among those being investigated.

How effective is Turkovac?

Europe

Russia has reported a new record in the daily caseload of COVID-19 infections.

According to new figures released on Sunday, there were 189,071 new infections which are being driven by the omicron variant. The infection numbers are currently eleven times higher than they were in early January.

However, the daily death toll has declined over the same period. On Sunday 661 deaths were recorded, while on January 6 there were 796 with a daily caseload of around 17,000 new cases.

Authorities are not considering any new measures and have lifted week-long isolation periods for those who have come into contact with people infected with COVID-19.

Portugal from Monday will no longer require visitors with EU vaccination certificates to take a test before entering the country

The move comes after Brussels recommended harmonizing the bloc's travel rules to avoid further curbs on fully vaccinated travelers from neighboring EU states.

The EU COVID pass proves a traveler is fully vaccinated, has recently tested negative or has recovered from infection within the past six months.

United Kingdom health authorities have reported falling figures in new COVID-19 infections and deaths.

On Sunday 54,095 new cases were reported while there were 75 deaths.

That has resulted in a decline in infections by 5 percent and a reduction in deaths by 7 percent when compared with the week before.

Should Europe lift its COVID restrictions?

Oceania

Australia says the reopening of the country's borders to international tourists may not be far away.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said parliament will debate the matter this week.

News Corp. newspapers over the weekend cited unnamed sources as saying that the borders may reopen within two or three weeks.

Australia, which isolated itself in March of 2020, has been going through a staggered reopening, allowing in only its citizens and residents, skilled migrants, international students and certain seasonal workers.

All international travelers must be vaccinated or provide evidence of a medical vaccination exemption to enter the country.

New Zealand: 'Zero COVID' policy questioned

New Zealand has celebrated its national Waitangi Day online due to a growing omicron outbreak, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging the public to unite in their battle against the virus.

"We all have a duty to do everything we can to protect our communities with all the tools that science and medicine have given us," Ardern said in a pre-recorded speech.

Papua New Guinea's (PNG) Prime Minister James Marape tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Beijing on Thursday for the opening of the Winter Games, his office has said.

"Prime Minister Marape will now abort the French leg of this trip due to COVID-19 restrictions," according to a statement on Facebook.

The office added Marape was due to return to PNG on Sunday but would not disclose any further details about his condition.

Africa 

African nations have agreed to establish a new health body for the continent to better coordinate measures to combat COVID-19.

A draft plan was approved by heads of state and government at a summit of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The African Preparedness and Response Authority (APRA) will also seek to design a rapid response for future pandemics.

kb,mm/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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