COVID-19 cases on the rise across the continent following festive period

Omicron has led to a serious surge in the number of COVID-19 cases reported across most European countries. Photo [Shutterstock/Tomas Ragina] [Shutterstock/Tomas Ragina]

From Paris to Podgorica, COVID-19 cases are surging across the continent in the wake of two weeks of festivities, exacerbated by the highly-infectious Omiron variant and challenges in national vaccination campaigns.

A “supersonic” rise in French COVID-19 cases will continue in the coming days; an official said on Wednesday that the government decreed a health state of emergency in Guadeloupe, Guiana, Mayotte, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that infections were reaching “stratospheric levels” in the Ile-de-France region around Paris and some other parts of France, adding that the situation in hospitals could worsen in coming weeks, with no end in sight to rising infections.

On Tuesday, France reported a record 271,686 new COVID-19 infections over 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, almost all travellers from the European Union must have a negative PCR coronavirus test before entry along with a valid COVID certificate, starting on Friday, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The Balkan country recorded its first 12 Omicron cases since the New Year. On Wednesday, it reported a sharp rise in new infections to over 6,200 from about 1,900 a day earlier.

Under the updated rules, travellers from the EU countries on Bulgaria’s red zone list need to produce a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival. The rule also applies to travellers from the United Kingdom.

On Bulgaria’s red zone list are countries that have reported over 500 coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days or have reported a spread of coronavirus variant that raises concerns.

Beginning on Friday, Bulgaria will add the United States, Canada and Australia to its red zone list, effectively banning arrivals of foreigners from these countries.

Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, and Romania are the only EU member states not on Bulgaria’s red zone list.

In the Western Balkans, several countries report surges, and Croatia said 8,587 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a 47% rise from the 5,845 recorded a day earlier.

In neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, cases almost doubled since last week to 1,556 on Wednesday. Montenegro, which has a population of 600,000, reported an 86% increase to 2,805 cases from the previous week.

Slovenia recorded a jump from 832 cases on Jan. 1 to 4,068 on Wednesday.

Health authorities reported 7,488 new cases in Serbia out of 25,516 people tested. So far, 1,318,333 people have fallen ill from COVID-19 in Serbia, a population of 6.2 million, and 12,831 have died from it.

The trend has so far been bucked in Kosovo and Albania, with cases declining at the moment. This, however, is likely due to low levels of testing. Albania has a 12% positivity rate meaning community transmission is moderate.

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