Live Covid updates: UK lifts restrictions, says omicron surge ‘has peaked’



LONDON (AP) — Face masks will no longer be mandatory in public places and COVID-19 passports will be dropped for major events as infections stabilize in most parts of the country, British Prime Minister Boris said on Wednesday. Johnson.

Johnson told lawmakers the restrictions were being eased because government scientists believe it is likely that the spike in infections caused by the highly contagious variant of omicron “has now peaked nationwide.” .

With hospitals in the north of England still strained by high case numbers and infections continuing to rise in schools, Johnson said hospital admissions and patients in intensive care units elsewhere in England were stabilizing or declining.

The government is no longer advising people to work from home and mandatory masks will be removed from secondary school classrooms from Thursday.

Mandatory COVID-19 passes will not be required to access large-scale events starting January 27. Face masks will no longer be legally required anywhere in England from this day.

“We will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one,” Johnson said.

The restrictions were introduced in December to slow the rapid spread of the omicron variant and give people time to get vaccinated.

Johnson said on Wednesday that more than 90% of people over 60 in the UK had received booster shots.

___

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Doctors and medical staff in Poland are concerned that the country’s healthcare system may not be able to cope with the latest wave of COVID-19 infections.

More than 30,000 new cases in 24 hours were reported in the country of 38 million people on Wednesday and health authorities expect that figure to almost double next week, reflecting the spread of the highly contagious variant of the virus. ‘omicron.

Poland has around 31,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, and the current infection rate poses a “great risk to the efficiency of the healthcare system”, said Health Minister Adam Niedzielsky.

Medical staff are exhausted and overworked and stress that dedicated hospital beds and equipment alone cannot treat patients. Nurse Gilbert Kolbe, spokesperson for the protesting doctors, said “the Polish healthcare system is not prepared for the fifth wave”.

“Whatever happens during the fifth wave, if no drastic action is taken by our government, it will unfortunately influence the number of deaths,” Kolbe told The Associated Press.

“It’s a really big problem that we’re just burnt out,” with people working huge hours every month, Kolbe said, adding that the situation is made worse by the hateful comments and death threats some workers are making. medical receive.

___

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus, which relies on tourism, will waive all entry requirements on March 1 for incoming travelers who have a valid vaccination certificate showing they have received a booster, the minister of tourism said on Wednesday. Country tourism.

Cyprus currently requires individuals to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantine upon arrival.

The Mediterranean island nation plans to drop these requirements for vaccinated people. Certificates for travelers who have not received a booster will be accepted if nine months have not elapsed since they received their last dose.

Cyprus, a member of the European Union, will accept vaccination certificates from non-EU countries that match those issued by the bloc of 27 member countries.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said unvaccinated adults will still be allowed to enter the country as long as they comply with testing and quarantine requirements which depend on their country of departure.

Cyprus plans to introduce a simplified COVID-19 risk assessment system to categorize countries on March 1. Unvaccinated travelers from green category countries will need to undergo a PCR test 72 hours before boarding or a rapid test 24 hours before departure.

Unvaccinated travelers from red category countries will also be required to undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Cyprus at their own expense. Travelers from gray category countries will need special permission to enter Cyprus.

___

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s leader on Wednesday ordered the closure of all elementary and secondary schools for 10 days due to a surge in COVID-19 infections in the North African country and authorities have tightened restrictions. entry requirements at airports.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s decision to cancel classes from Thursday came after an emergency meeting on Wednesday of the Council of Ministers, members of the COVID-19 scientific committee and the country’s security officials.

The presidential statement said university staff and health authorities should decide for themselves whether or not to continue in-person classes.

Algeria is fighting infections due to both the delta variant and the rapidly spreading omicron variant. On Wednesday, health officials reported a daily record of 1,359 omicron cases and 12 deaths.

Tebboune urged officials to put in place a “robust testing structure” in public health facilities and in private laboratories.

In December, Algeria began requiring vaccine passports to enter many public places, seeking to boost the country’s low inoculation rate and overcome vaccine hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused. Less than a quarter of the Algerian population has received even a single dose of the vaccine.

___

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand is one of the few remaining countries to have avoided an outbreak of the omicron variant — but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday an outbreak was inevitable and the nation would tighten the restrictions as soon as it was detected.

But she also said New Zealand would not impose the lockdowns it has used before, including for the delta variant.

“This stage of the pandemic is different from what we have faced before. Omicron is more transmissible,” Ardern said. “That’s going to make it harder to keep it away, but it’s also going to make it harder to control once it arrives. But just like before, when COVID changes, we change.”

Ardern said within 24 to 48 hours of omicron being detected in the community, the nation would transition to its “red” setting. This would allow businesses to remain open and domestic travel to continue, but would require schoolchildren to wear masks and limit crowds. to 100 people.

Currently, most of New Zealand is in the ‘orange’ frame, which requires mask-wearing and proof of vaccination, but does not limit crowd sizes.

Around 93% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully immunized and 52% have received a booster shot. The country has just started vaccinating children aged 5 to 11.

New Zealand has managed to contain the spread of the delta variant, with an average of around 20 new cases each day. But he has seen an increasing number of people arriving in the country and going into mandatory quarantine who are infected with omicron.

It has strained the quarantine system and prompted the government to limit access to returning citizens while it decides what to do to reopen its borders, angering many people who want to return to New Zealand.