21 December 2021
Countries around the world are considering new limits on movement because of the fast-spreading Omicron version of the coronavirus.
The proposed restrictions come as many people worldwide prepare to celebrate Christmas later this week. Omicron infections are increasing quickly across Europe, the United States and Asia.
Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and South Korea are among countries to have restarted partial or full lockdowns or other social distancing measures in recent days.
In New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said his country was delaying the start of a methodical reopening of its border until the end of February. "All of the evidence so far points to Omicron being the most transmissible COVID-19 variant yet," he said.
Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases on Tuesday recommended that "maximum contact restrictions" be put in place.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he was considering all kinds of measures.
Sweden will urge all employees to work from home if possible and put in place stronger rules for social distancing. "We must now take joint responsibility and we need to adapt to the new reality," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a news conference.
In Denmark, Omicron is now the main version of the new coronavirus, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said. Many countries in the West are hoping that booster vaccine shots will help control the spread of Omicron, as some studies have shown two shots may not be enough.
The European Union's drug regulator is prepared for the possibility that vaccines may have to be changed to fight Omicron. There is no evidence that that will be necessary yet.
‘We're not going back to lockdowns'
In Australia, Omicron cases have risen but hospitalizations remain low. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged state and territory leaders to avoid more lockdowns.
"We're not going back to lockdowns. We're going forward to live with this virus with common sense and responsibility," Morrison said.
In the United States, the administration of President Joe Biden said it plans to buy 500 million COVID-19 tests that Americans can get online and use at home.
Omicron was first found last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong. The form of the virus has been reported in at least 89 countries.
The severity of illness it causes remains unclear. But the World Health Organization warned it is spreading faster than the Delta version and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
The Reuters news agency reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
lockdown – n. an emergency in which people are not permitted to freely move about an area because of danger
transmissible –adj. able to be spread to other people, animals
maximum –adj. the highest number or the most possible
adapt –v. to change your behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation
regulator –n. an official who works for the part of the government that controls a public activity (such as banking or insurance) by making and enforcing rules; an agency that supervises a public activity