France toughens its health measures, in a Europe in the midst of COVID-19

Faced with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, France announced Thursday a tightening of constraints, without re-containment or curfew, while Germany, hit by its most violent wave of contaminations, crossed the threshold 100,000 deaths.

South African scientists announced Thursday that a new variant of COVID-19 with an “extremely high” number of mutations and with a “potential for very rapid spread” had been detected in their country.

Europe once again became the global epicenter of the pandemic this fall, as the highly contagious Delta variant reduced the effectiveness of vaccines against disease transmission to 40%, according to the World Health Organization ( WHO).

COVID-19 has killed more than 1.5 million people on the continent since the start of the pandemic, according to an AFP count made from official reports. The WHO has warned that the disease could kill 700,000 more there by the spring.

In total, the coronavirus has killed more than 5.16 million people worldwide since the end of 2019. The WHO estimates that by considering the excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to COVID-19, the toll of the pandemic could be two to three times higher.

In France, where COVID has killed more than 118,000 people, it is at this stage considered “neither containment nor curfew”, announced Thursday the Minister of Health Olivier Véran.

In Austria, the authorities took the decision a few days ago to confine, a measure of unprecedented severity in Europe since the start of vaccination campaigns.

“Save the end of year celebrations”

Other “confinements”, in reality less strict, had already been decreed in other countries such as Latvia and the Netherlands. Additional restrictions have been put in place in Slovakia and Italy.

“We can pass this wave without resorting to the most restrictive tools”, underlined the French minister, specifying that there would be at this stage “neither early closing of businesses nor restrictions of movement”.

The COVID-19 vaccine booster, most often in the form of a third dose, which is now only available to over 65s, will be “open to all adults from 5 months after their last injection »In France, from this Saturday.

The Minister also announced the return of the obligation to wear a mask everywhere indoors in places open to the public, from Friday, including in places where the health passport is requested (restaurants, shopping centers, places of entertainment. , museums…).

It is a question of “saving the end of year celebrations”, had underlined Wednesday the spokesman of the government Gabriel Attal at the exit of a Council of Ministers held in the physical absence of the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, him -even with COVID-19.

In Martinique and Guadeloupe, in the French West Indies, the protest against the anti-COVID vaccine, mixed with social demands linked to the cost of living, provoked violence, including gunfire against firefighters and police officers. Roadblocks hamper the activity of these two islands.

Stepping up measures is also under consideration in the Netherlands, where health restrictions have already caused riot nights.

“Every day counts”

For the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, who will urgently organize a meeting on Friday to decide on new measures, the increase in contamination and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 is “higher than the most pessimistic curves” outlined last week by scientific experts.

A former model student, Germany is facing its strongest wave as a new government prepares to take office.

More than 100,000 people have died there from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. During the day of Wednesday, 75,961 new contaminations were counted.

“Every day counts,” warned outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, who wants an additional turn of the screw and has let his successor, Olaf Scholz know, who has promised to “do everything” in the face of the pandemic.

The new coalition is counting on the generalization of the health passport in transport and access restrictions for the unvaccinated, for example for cultural places, as well as on vaccination.

One billion euros will also be released for nursing staff and nursing assistants, the equivalent of just over 1.4 billion Canadian dollars.

For its part, the European Commission recommended Thursday the administration of a booster dose no later than nine months after the second dose of vaccine to strengthen the European health passport, the validity of which would no longer be recognized without this booster.

And Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children aged 5 to 11 by the European medicines regulator, paving the way for vaccination among this age group in the EU.

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