Germany will begin relaxing most of its coronavirus restrictions by March 20 as infection rates fueled by the omicron variant fall. Chancellor Olaf Scholz endorsed a plan Wednesday to roll back most restrictions in three stages, calling March 20 "freedom day."
Germany's decision comes after neighboring Austria and Switzerland dropped many of their curbs, although the virus continues to spread rapidly.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping told Hong Kong on Wednesday to take "all necessary measures" to control an omicron-led outbreak after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam ruled out imposing very stringent containment measures.
The Hong Kong chief executive told reporters Tuesday there were no plans to impose a complete lockdown on the financial hub to combat a new surge of coronavirus infections. Health authorities announced more than 1,600 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, one day after posting a record-setting 2,071 new infections.
Lam said Monday that "the onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong."
Worldwide, there were nearly 417 million global COVID-19 infections and more than 5.8 million global COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The center said more than 10 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Reuters.