Europeans reimpose restrictions as omicron sweeps continent

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Nations across Europe are moving to reimpose tougher measures to stem a new wave of Covid-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible omicron variant, triggering calls for protests from Paris to Barcelona.

As case numbers escalated, alarmed ministers in France, and Austria tightened travel restrictions. Paris canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks. Denmark closed theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums. Ireland imposed an 8 p.m. curfew on pubs and bars and limited attendance at indoor and outdoor events.

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin captured the sense of the continent in an address to the nation, saying the new restrictions were needed to protect lives and livelihoods from the resurgent virus.

“None of this is easy,” Martin said Friday night. “We are all exhausted with COVID and the restrictions it requires. The twists and turns, the disappointments and the frustrations take a heavy toll on everyone. But it is the reality that we are dealing with.”

Other nations may go further still. Dutch government ministers were meeting Saturday to discuss advice from a panel of experts who are recommending a toughening of the partial lockdown that is already in place and has led to a recent decline in infections.

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge didn’t say what measures the government might impose as he headed into the meeting. “There are very serious concerns,” he told reporters in The Hague.” That’s why we’re meeting on Saturday to see what we need to do.”

Some stores opened earlier than usual Saturday and shoppers flocked into city center shopping areas, fearing it could be their last chance to shop before Christmas.

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