In Focus

Europe scrambles to tighten Covid-19 restrictions amid faltering vaccine rollouts

France introduces curfew as Germany considers tougher measures after deaths hit record high

Governments across Europe are rethinking their Covid-19 responses as new variants of the coronavirus push struggling health services to breaking point.

France is introducing a 6pm nationwide curfew that will be in force for at least 15 days from Saturday. And German newspaper Münchner Merkur reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is “reviewing drastic coronavirus rules” after a record daily death toll of 1,244 was reported by Berlin on Thursday. 

Merkel told senior officials from her Christian Democratic Union party yesterday that she wants “to bring forward a meeting with regional leaders planned for 25 January, and that tougher measures must be discussed” to stem the spread of the virus, according to Reuters.

Similar scenes are playing out in neighbouring nations, amid “naked panic across the continent that the new variants of the coronavirus may catapult the situation completely out of control”, writes Politico Brussels Playbook’s Florian Eder.

A spike in infections and worries about new Covid variants are fuelling frustration over the slow rollout of the vaccine across the EU. The bloc’s leaders are “looking over their shoulders at Israel, the US and the UK, and wondering how their voters are going to react if these countries start getting back to normal while they are still stuck in lockdown”, writes ITV’s Europe editor James Mates.

The slow progress on the continent has been blamed on “lack of supply, lack of vaccine options and a failure to plan for a massive national effort”, he continues.

Meanwhile, reports of EU member states making separate arrangements outside of the bloc’s joint procurement scheme have increased internal tensions.

Indeed, “the vaccine roll-out in Europe is becoming a political, as much as a medical problem in the EU”, Mates adds.

Britain has now vaccinated more people than the EU combined, while Denmark is leading the way among member states, according to Oxford University tracking.

The UK has administered a total of 3.36 million jabs so far, which equates to 4.94 per 100 people being vaccinated, and Denmark has delivered 129,000 jabs, about 2.23 per 100 people. 

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