Gibraltar cancels official Christmas celebrations amid surge in COVID cases

A helth worker takes temperature to a Spanish worker prior to receiving a dose of Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination centre in Gibraltar on April, 6, 2021. - Gibraltar, a tiny British territory on Spain's southern tip, has become one of the first places in the world to vaccinate the bulk of its adult population against the coronavirus, allowing virus restriction to be lifted and life to almost return to normal. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP) (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)
A vaccination centre in Gibraltar. (Getty Images)

Gibraltar has cancelled official Christmas celebrations after it saw a spike in COVID cases.

Despite being one of the most heavily vaccinated parts of the world, the government announced there would be no official parties, receptions and similar gatherings due to a rise in infections.

Gibraltar, a small British territory on the southern tip of Spain with a population of around 33,000, has seen 212 new coronavirus cases since Monday, with a total of 564 active cases.

Officials said the public should “exercise their own judgment” when deciding to hold Christmas functions but added it “strongly advises against” having them in the next four weeks, while the vaccine booster programme is rolled out.

Gibraltar daily COVID infections and deaths. (Reuters)
Gibraltar daily COVID infections and deaths. (Reuters)

The government said in a statement: “Given the exponential rise in the number of cases, the government, for example, intends to cancel a number of its own functions including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings.

“The public, at this stage, are ultimately called upon to exercise their own judgment in this respect bearing in mind the current advice given.”

It added: "The government strongly advises against any large informal social events, parties or receptions being held over at least the next four weeks while the vaccine booster programme is rolled out."

The vaccine rollout in Gibraltar has been phenomenally successful, the territory administering 94,937 COVID jabs so far, including 39,815 second doses, with an additional 14,241 booster jabs - a vaccination rate of 139.5%.

Their actions send a warning signal to nations across Europe amid fears a new wave of the virus is bearing down on some populations.

On Monday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson urged people to come forward for COVID booster shots to avoid the need for a Christmas lockdown.

As of Wednesday, 46,065,838 people have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus in the UK, with 13,494,890 receiving a booster.

The UK has an 82.1% vaccination rate for people over the age of 12.

The prime minister also warned that “storm clouds are gathering" over parts of Europe with a “new wave” of COVID sweeping through the continent.

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Soaring infections across the Continent are prompting governments to reintroduce unpopular lockdowns.

Austrian coronavirus infections hit a new daily record on Wednesday, on the third day of a lockdown for those not fully vaccinated.

Around 65% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the virus, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

It also has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 925 per 100,000 people.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: A man receives his Covid-19 vaccination booster jab at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre on November 10, 2021 in the Stratford area of London, England. Over 10 million people have now received their Covid-19 vaccine boosters in the UK, as the government has allowed people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable to receive third jabs. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
A man receives his booster jab in east London. (Getty Images)

The Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks to slow a resurgence of coronavirus, but infections have continued to spread.

On Tuesday, the National Institute for Health (RIVM) reported a record of more than 110,000 cases in the week ended 16 November, an increase of 44% from the week before, with the strongest rise among children aged 4-12.

Germany's coronavirus situation is dramatic, chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday, calling for a push to distribute booster shots faster and appealing to those sceptical of vaccination to change their minds.

On Wednesday, it reported 52,826 new infections – a jump of a third compared with a week ago and another daily record, while 294 people died, bringing the total to 98,274, as the pandemic's fourth wave tightened its grip on Europe.

Watch: Prime minister unclear if Europe COVID wave will 'wash up on UK shores'