A SAGE adviser has said Europe’s Covid-19 lockdown riots are a ‘warning to the UK’ and urged Brits to get their booster jabs.
Professor John Edmund said today that opposition to restrictions on the continent have demonstrated the importance of vaccinations, especially as ‘it is pretty clear immunity does wane’.
Austria has made vaccinations mandatory and yesterday announced it would return to lockdown on Monday, with Germany seemingly poised to follow suit after health officials warned they cannot rule out a full shutdown.
It is the latest reintroduction of restrictions across Europe that have faced a fierce backlash and come as governments seek to increase vaccination rates ahead of the winter amid soaring numbers of infections.
Riots and protests have broken out in cities including Rotterdam where police were forced to fire warning shots at protestors marching against the reintroduction of restrictions.
‘What you see now in central Europe with these rapid increase in cases, you see the importance of vaccination,’ Mr Edmund told Sky.
Pictured: A scooter set on fire during a protest against the 2G policy in Rotterdam, Netherlands
But Mr Edmund said the UK was unlikely to be hit by the Christmas chaos because the UK ‘is in a slightly different position.’
He added: ‘Frankly here in the UK, we’ve had high rates of infection for many months now so we’re in a slightly different position to Austria and Germany and so on.
‘I don’t think things will quite happen in the same way here as they have done there. But it is a warning to us. I think it’s pretty clear that immunity does wane.
‘I’m sure you do still have some protection from the vaccine but it’s nowhere near as strong as shortly after you’ve been vaccinated. It’s very clear the booster doses do give a very clear boost to your immune system.’
Professor John Edmund said the situation in Europe should act as a warning to the UK
Asked whether the Government should re-introduce control measures, Mr Edmund told Sky: ‘The plan B measures, we could’ve implemented them at any point. It’s a government decision whether to take that step.
‘They have to look at the potential effectiveness and measure that against the potential cost of some of those things.’
Last week the WHO warned the continent was now the epicentre of the pandemic and said the surge in infection was ‘alarming’.
It comes as ten thousand people are expected to protest against Covid-19 restrictions in Vienna today after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the rapidly rising coronavirus infections in the country.
Meanwhile, at least two people were shot and five others injured in Rotterdam last night as Dutch riot police opened fire on protesters as anti-lockdown demonstrations turned into an ‘orgy of violence’.
Demonstrations against virus measures are also expected in other European countries including Switzerland, Croatia and Italy – the latest in rising anger at the re-introduction of restrictions amid soaring cases on the continent.
At least one person was shot and six more injured in Rotterdam last night as Dutch riot police opened fire on protesters in an ‘orgy of violence’
Rioters set vehicles ablaze as anti-lockdown protests turned to riots in Coolsingel street, Rotterdam, on Friday evening
Austria becomes first EU country to mandate jabs
Austria on Friday became the first EU country to announce it would make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory and will next week impose a partial lockdown in the face of spiralling infections.
The lockdown, which comes into effect on Monday, constitutes the toughest restrictions introduced in Europe in recent weeks as Covid-19 cases surge continent-wide, fuelled by vaccine resistance.
Austrians will not be allowed to leave home except to go to work, shop for essentials and exercise. The restrictions will initially last 20 days with an evaluation after 10 days, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
Schools will remain open, although parents have been asked to keep their children at home if possible. Working from home is also recommended.
Vaccination against Covid-19 in the Alpine nation will be mandatory from February 1 next year, Schallenberg said. So far, the Vatican alone in Europe has imposed a vaccination mandate.
The World Health Organization continues to favour policies that ‘demonstrate the benefit and safety of vaccines for the greatest possible acceptance of vaccines, rather than imposed mandatory vaccination,’ spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.
But Schallenberg said: ‘Despite months of persuasion, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,’ and that vaccination is the only ‘exit ticket’ out of the pandemic.
Austria has already imposed movement restrictions on those not vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus, ordering them to stay at home since Monday, becoming the first EU country to do so.
But infections have continued to rise. On Friday, a new record of more than 15,800 new cases was recorded in the EU member of nearly nine million people.
Reporting by AFP
The violent scenes came amid a rising anger at coronavirus measures across Europe, with Austria introducing a full lockdown from Monday, and German ministers not ruling out following its neighbour’s lockdown lead.
Restrictions have also been placed on the unvaccinated in Germany – where they have been banned from restaurants – as well as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Dutch government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 — that would exclude people who test negative.
Police spokesperson Patricia Wessels confirmed that police fired shots, though it was not immediately clear what type of rounds were fired.
‘We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening,’ she said. ‘We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further.’
Late on Friday night, police said downtown Rotterdam remained restive and there was still a heavy police presence on the streets. Organisers of a planned protest Saturday in Amsterdam against the coronavirus measures said they had canceled the event after Friday’s violence.
A musical protest called by DJs in the southern city of Breda against current Covid-19 measures, which include the 8 pm closure of bars, restaurants and clubs, will go ahead. Organisers say they expect several thousand people.
The Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
Britain’s daily Covid cases rose by another 10 per cent yesterday and deaths ticked upwards — but hospitalisations plunged 17 per cent.
Government dashboard data showed 44,242 positive tests were registered in the last 24 hours yesterday, a slight uptick from 40,375 last Friday.
Infections trended upwards every day since November 11 except for one blip, with data suggesting cases are now rising in children following the return of schools from half-term.
Another 157 Covid deaths were also announced by health chiefs, in an eight per cent rise from the same time the previous week. Latest hospitalisation figures showed 827 admissions were recorded on November 15, which was down 17 per cent.
Fears of another Christmas lockdown were sparked this week when Boris Johnson admitted that the drastic action was not completely off the cards at a Downing Street press conference.
But the Prime Minister also said there was still nothing to suggest England needed to ramp up its Covid restrictions.
He urged people to get their booster vaccines and warned of Europe’s spiralling crisis, which saw Austria become the first country to impose another lockdown.
Prof Edmund yesterday told BBC Radio 4’s the World at One programme: ‘I think there’s a risk because of waning immunity in older individuals – and that’s all adults, not just the elderly – that cases could really take off.
‘It’s really important that we boost immunity in older individuals and then we might be able to avoid any significant fourth wave.
‘We’re going to have high levels of infection for many months, so I think the NHS will unfortunately be under significant strain. It may not get to breaking point, where we were close to before, but significant strain for a very long period of time is certainly on the cards.’