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European countries scramble to tamp down latest COVID surge

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“We will manage,” Veran said.

The British government announced on Monday that all adults and children will be able to have routine coronavirus tests twice a week as a way to stamp out new outbreaks. The tests were being introduced as Johnson announced the next steps in the country’s roadmap out of its three-month lockdown.

Britain has recorded almost 127,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. But both infections and deaths have fallen sharply during the lockdown and since the start of a vaccination campaign that so far has given a first dose to more than 31 million people, or 6 in 10 adults.

Authorities in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, introduced tighter lockdown restrictions following a recent spike in virus cases. All schools in the city of 3 million people will be closed for the next two weeks, and only people with special passes will be allowed on public transport.

“The hospitals are almost full. The situation is difficult,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Elsewhere, North Macedonia has delayed mass immunisation amid vaccine shortages as its hospitals fill up following record new COVID-19 infections and deaths last week.

In Greece, which is struggling to emerge from a deep recession, most retail stores were allowed to reopen on Monday despite an ongoing surge in COVID-19 infections. Lockdown measures have been in force since early November, although shops opened briefly around the Christmas season. The prolonged closures piled pressure on the economy.

Serbia also has eased measures against the coronavirus despite high numbers of infections and a slowdown in vaccinations. The government on Monday allowed bars and restaurants to serve guests outside at reduced capacity and with respect of social distancing rules.

In the US, a top public health official said young people were driving the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases, as the increasing rate of vaccination in older Americans prevents the most serious cases among seniors.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, cited the increasing spread of variants as well as a rise in youth sports and extracurricular activities as factors contributing to the steady increase in cases over the last four weeks.

But Walensky pointed to positive developments among seniors, who are the most vulnerable age group. Senior virus deaths have fallen to their lowest level since the early fall. More than 75 per cent of those age 65 or older nationally have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 55 per cent are fully vaccinated.

“What we’re seeing is both a decrease in emergency department visits as well as hospitalisations associated with that demographic,” she said.

More than 23 per cent of all adults in the US are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Many states are making vaccines available to younger demographics. Starting on Monday, any adult in Florida is eligible to receive the vaccine. In addition, the state announced that 16 and 17-year-olds also could get the vaccine with parental permission.

AP

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