Protests Against Germany’s Covid Restrictions Turn Violent, US Infection Record, US CDC Under Fire, World Stats, More

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Demonstrators march through the city center of the capital of Saxony-Anhalt with a banner that reads "youth against compulsory vaccination" on Monday.

 

Paris (CNN) Protesters tossed bottles and fireworks at police in eastern Germany on Monday night in some of the most violent demonstrations against public health measures in Europe since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Hundreds of people gathered in various cities and towns on Sunday and Monday to voice their opposition to stricter social distancing rules that went into effect Tuesday across Germany. Gatherings are now limited to 10 people for those vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, while households with unvaccinated people must not meet with more than two other people from one other household at a time.

Some 500 people marched to the city center in the city of Bautzen, in Saxony, late into the night Monday in violation of public health regulations, some of them carrying anti-vaccination signs. Twelve police officers were injured and twelve emergency vehicles were damaged as protesters clashed with police.

Scuffles broke out in several parts of the state, Saxony police said, while television footage showed demonstrators throwing objects and shouting insults at officers.

Twenty-three people were criminally charged and another 183 were hit with less-serious administrative violations, police said.

Protesters scuffle with police officers during a demonstration in Bautzen on Monday.

Protesters scuffle with police officers during a demonstration in Bautzen on Monday.

The protests in Germany come as Europe prepares for a surge in new coronavirus cases heading into the New Year holiday. While there remain pockets of communities opposed to Covid-19 vaccines and social distancing measures throughout the continent, anti-vaxxers have become increasingly violent in eastern Germany, which has been the scene of many protests and where the uptake of vaccines is lower than the national average in most states.

Similar scenes of violence played out on Sunday in various places, including the Bavarian town of Schweinfurt, where hundreds of protesters also violated public health regulations to gather. Eight police were injured after being punched and kicked there, authorities said.

A 27-year-old woman was criminally charged after she was accused of trying to break police cordon in the town with her 4-year-old child in tow, both of whom were pepper sprayed, authorities say.

Politicians and media outlets have reportedly received packages containing raw meat and threats from alleged anti-vaxxers, and, earlier this month, authorities uncovered a purported plot to assassinate Saxony Governor Michael Kretschmer. Kretschmer has been pushing for people in his state to get vaccinated and receive booster shots. Six people were arrested and questioned in relation to the allegations but later released.

Germany’s vaccination rate lags behind its neighbors in Western Europe, with 70.9% of the population having received both of their doses. Saxony’s vaccination rate, at 63%, is the lowest of any German state. German health authorities have said that more people need to be vaccinated to protect the country from a new wave of cases driven by the increase of the Omicron variant across Europe during the holiday season.

Germany earlier this month put in place a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people, banning them from accessing all but the most essential businesses. New Chancellor Olaf Scholz supports mandatory vaccinations and wants a law drafted that could be voted on by the parliament in late February. Parliament is due to meet in early January to begin discussions.

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US Daily Infection Record

The US is currently averaging more than 265,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, surpassing the country’s January previous peak.

Monday set a single-day record of just over 512,000 thousand reported cases. Experts say the surge is due to the spread of the omicron variant, increased testing, and a reporting backlog from the holiday weekend.

 

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EU: Omicron derails holiday plans, strains hospitals 

 

Governments across Europe have in recent days enacted new measures to limit public gatherings, fearing that Omicron could overwhelm hospitals given how fast it’s spreading, especially among the unvaccinated.

Germany’s Constitutional Court also ruled that legislators need to set triage rules if intensive care units fill up with coronavirus patients. The German Intensive Care and Emergency has said that only one sixth of all ICU beds in the country are available.

After reporting a record-breaking 104,611 Covid-19 infections on Christmas Day, France enacted a series of restrictions Monday limiting where people can eat, mandating more work from home options when possible, and curtailing the size of public gatherings.

However, the government stopped short of putting in place curfews or lockdowns and will let local leaders to decide whether they need to implement outdoor mask mandates.

  • Italy will close all nightclubs and bars in January, while Portugal closed schools, bars and clubs until January 10.
  • Spanish authorities have reinstated a nationwide outdoor mask mandate and six northern regional governments have agreed to coordinate early closing hours for restaurants, bars and nightclubs — a move affects 14 million people, about 29% of Spain’s population.

Madrid, however, will be one of Europe’s few major cities to ring in the New Year with a large celebration. Barcelona and Valencia have canceled their fireworks displays in a bid to get people to stay at home. Berlin, London, Paris, Rome and Venice have also axed their traditional festivities.

CNN’s Barbie Nadeau, Al Goodman and Vasco Cotovio contributed reporting

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CDC slammed for new COVID-19 guidance

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is under fire from health experts and employee groups who say the new COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance has too many holes.

The isolation guidelines announced late Monday apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Some health experts said they worry people will leave isolation while still contagious, and raised questions about the CDC’s decision making.

Critics also argue the guidelines ignore the benefits of rapid antigen testing by not requiring them, and rely on a one-size-fits-all approach that makes assumptions about the fast-spreading omicron variant that may not be true.

What changed: In the early days of the pandemic, CDC recommended a 14-day isolation period for anyone infected with the virus. That eventually changed to 10 days, regardless of a person’s vaccination status and whether or not they were symptomatic.

On Monday evening, federal officials cut in half the recommended time needed to isolate after a COVID-19 infection for those not showing symptoms. The CDC also made changes to guidelines on quarantining after exposure to someone who has been infected.

No testing: The lack of a requirement for a negative test after five days frustrated some experts, who said it was based on data that predated the omicron variant.

Some experts have speculated that CDC didn’t include a testing requirement because of the current shortage of rapid tests. In many places, at-home tests are difficult or impossible to find, and even if they are available, the prices are high.

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CDC SIGNIFICANTLY CUTS ESTIMATE OF OMICRON’S PREVALENCE IN US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday significantly revised downward the estimate of the percentage of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. caused by the omicron variant of the virus.

According to agency data, omicron accounted for about 59 percent of all U.S. infections as of Dec. 25. Previously, the CDC said the omicron variant comprised 73 percent of all cases for the week ending Dec. 18. But that number has now been revised to 22.5 percent of all cases.

The new estimates mean that while a majority of new infections are attributed to the omicron variant, the delta variant has not been sidelined, and still accounts for about 41 percent of infections.

The first known case of the omicron variant in the United States was identified Dec. 1.

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Vaccine mandate for domestic travel possible

 

© Hill Illustration/Madeline Monroe/AP/Nam Y Huh/Carolyn Kaster

President Biden said Tuesday he would impose a mandate that Americans be vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel domestically if his medical team recommends it.

When asked when he would make a decision on domestic travel vaccine requirements while out for a walk in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Biden told reporters, “when I get a recommendation from the medical team.”

Many public experts have long called for such a requirement, and the idea of mandating coronavirus vaccines for domestic travel has been bouncing around the administration for months. The emergence of the omicron variant caused the White House to revisit questions over whether to impose one.

Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Monday cleaned up his previous remarks on a mandate after he said on Sunday that “anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome.”

“Everything that comes up as a possibility, we put it on the able and we consider it, that does not mean that it is likely to happen,” Fauci told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Monday.

If there was any uncertainty to his meaning: “I doubt if we’re going to see something like that in the reasonably foreseeable future,” he added.

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Biden rescinds African travel restrictions 

 

© Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday formally revoked the travel restrictions his administration imposed on eight countries in southern Africa over the spread of the omicron variant, saying the measures were no longer necessary.

“Since I issued that proclamation, our Nation’s health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant,” Biden said in a proclamation rescinding the travel restrictions.

“Importantly, scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant,” Biden continued. “Moreover, the Omicron variant has now spread to more than 100 countries, and it is prevalent in the United States.”

Biden administration officials defended the restrictions, arguing they allowed more time to prepare for the spread of the omicron variant before it reached the U.S. But it quickly became clear after analyses of early cases that the variant had been spreading domestically even before the restrictions were put into place.

The decision to impose restrictions sparked immediate backlash from the international community and public health experts, who say it was ineffective and punitive against African countries, especially as Western countries have failed to deliver needed vaccine supplies and logistics to the continent.

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WORLD STATS

Coronavirus Cases:

283,298,395

Deaths:

5,433,530

Recovered:

251,989,808
Highlighted in green
= all cases have recovered from the infection
Highlighted in grey
= all cases have had an outcome (there are no active cases)

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Latest News

December 29 (GMT)

Updates

  • 104 new cases and 2 new deaths in Oman [source]
  • 18,149 new cases and 8 new
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