Brazil rise as Denmark, Austria curbs ease

Authorities in Denmark aim to scrap all remaining domestic COVID-19 restrictions next week.
Authorities in Denmark aim to scrap all remaining domestic COVID-19 restrictions next week.

Denmark and Austria have became the latest countries to ease COVID-19 restrictions following similar moves by the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands while other countries in Europe planned new measures to battle record numbers of infections as a surge in cases was also reported in the Americas.

The European region as a whole no longer accounts for half or more than half of global deaths and infections according to Reuters COVID-19 data but the numbers remain high, with particular concern in countries with lower vaccination rates.

Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic, Bulgaria and Romania all reported record daily infection totals on Wednesday and the German parliament prepared to debate proposals to either require or robustly encourage residents to be vaccinated.

Poland will move older school students to remote learning from Thursday and Sweden said it would extend its current pandemic measures by another two weeks .

Austria, which had imposed a lockdown on those unvaccinated, said that was no longer justifiable given there were now fewer people in hospital due to COVID-19 although the unvaccinated would still be barred from a range of leisure activities.

A coronavirus vaccine mandate for all adults in Austria takes effect in the country on February 1.

With more than 10 million new cases, infections in Europe rose 13 per cent last week compared to the one before, according to data from the World Health Organisation, with France, Italy and Germany logging the highest numbers.

Weekly deaths in the region, however, decreased by 5 per cent.

Denmark aims to scrap all remaining domestic COVID-19 restrictions next week.

If the move gets parliamentary approval, Danish nightclubs will be able to reopen while restaurants will be allowed to serve alcohol after 10 pm and customers will not need to present vaccine passes upon entry.

The moves follow similar announcements in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands made in the past week.

Among reasons given were case numbers dropping below peaks and lower numbers of hospitalisations than feared.

While Danish infections and hospitalisation numbers have hovered around record highs over the past week, authorities have said there is no longer a correlation between increasing infections and hospitalisations.

Also, health authorities estimate between 30-40 per cent of those currently in hospital with a positive coronavirus test are there for other reasons than COVID-19.

New cases of COVID-19 in the Americas in the past week have been the highest since the pandemic began in 2020 and the Omicron variant has clearly become the predominant strain, the Pan American Health Organisation said on Wednesday.

The United States continues to have the highest number of new infections, although cases decreased by nearly one million over the last week, the regional health agency said.

Mexico's southern states have registered a tripling in new infections and Brazil's new cases have surged 193 per cent over the last seven days, the PAHO said.

Australian Associated Press