Since then, countries in the region have reimposed restrictions to clamp down on the resurgence of cases, with some tightening rules specifically for the unvaccinated. In Austria, the first European country to go into a major lockdown in response to the latest surge, tens of thousands took to the streets on Saturday in mass protest. Germany this week announced harsh restrictions that would prevent unvaccinated people from entering bars, restaurants and other public areas. And France imposed a requirement for incoming travelers from outside the European Union to present a negative coronavirus test.
On Sunday, officials in Britain said they were still gauging the potential impact of the new variant. But increasing the uptake of vaccines and boosters would be the “surest defense,” Dominic Raab, Britain’s deputy prime minister, said to the BBC.
“Our message is this: Enjoy Christmas this year. The vaccine rollout means we’re in a position to do so,” Mr. Raab said.
Britain reported an average of 44,385 daily cases last week, an 11 percent increase compared to two weeks ago. Deaths, in contrast, have decreased by 20 percent in that time frame.
Britain levied new restrictions last week to combat Omicron, including a requirement that all international travelers take a coronavirus test within 48 hours of departure, and an additional test within two days after arrival. The government also mandated the wearing of masks in indoor spaces like public transport and shopping centers.
Some critics and experts, fearing another spike in cases like that of last winter, which sent the nation into a monthslong national lockdown, said they worried that the new rules had been imposed too late.
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In Denmark, where vaccination rates are high, the mandatory use of Covid passports and face masks in some public spaces was reintroduced last week. The country’s health authority said on Sunday that it was ramping up its laboratories to be able to detect Omicron faster, as well as intensively testing and restricting travel to try delay the spread of the virus.
“The time we gain, we must use to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Henrik Ullum, the chief executive of the Danish Statens Serum Institut. A high immunity, he added, gave the country more resilience to the virus if Omicron cases continued spreading.
And on Monday, the United States will begin requiring all incoming air travelers to show proof of a negative test taken the day before departure, regardless of their vaccination status or citizenship.