European Union health officials urged members Thursday to “act decisively” to put in place and utilize measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus and a potential surge in cases like the one earlier this year that prompted widespread lockdowns.
“We are at a decisive moment. All member states must be ready to roll out control measures, immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety. She added, “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”
More than 3 million cases have been reported across the EU and Britain since the pandemic began, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Kyriakides noted some EU countries are experiencing higher numbers of new infections than they had in March at the peak of the outbreak in the region, saying, “It is abundantly clear that this crisis is not behind us.”
Frances health ministry reported Thursday the number of people hospitalized in intensive care units due to the coronavirus surpassed 1,000 for the first time since early June.
In the Netherlands, health officials said Thursday the number of new infections rose to 2,544, a record high for a single day.
Polands health ministry also reported a record daily rise in cases and attributed the trend to people making more contact with others after restrictions were lifted.
Sweden, which opted not to put in place many of the stricter coronavirus lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, is experiencing a situation Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called worrying.
“The caution that existed in the spring has more and more been replaced by hugs, parties, bus trips in rush hour traffic, and an everyday life that, for many, seems to return to normal,” Lofven told reporters.
He said people will be glad about the right steps they take now and suffer later for what is done wrong.
Lofven urged people to follow social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures, and said, if necessary, the government would introduce new measures to stop the spread of the virus.
A similar message about the need for continued vigilance and good practices came Thursday from Indonesias COVID-19 task force as that country saw another record increase in new cases. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.
“Over time, we’ve seen that the people have lowered their guards,” task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito told reporters. “It’s almost like they don’t have empathy even when they see every day so many new victims.”
The governor of the capital, Jakarta, extended coronavirus restrictions there until October 11 in order to help hospitals cope with demand.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that the country is returning to a full lockdown, effective Friday, and lasting for two weeks as its infection rate spirals out of control.
Schools, entertainment venues and most businesses will be closed, while restaurants will be limited to delivering food. Residents will be required to stay within 500 to 1,000 meters of their homes, except for work and shopping for food and medicine, while outdoor gatherings will be strictly limited to 20 people.
Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass
A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.
Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.
Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.
The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.
Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.
The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.
But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.
Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.
One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.
And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.
TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.
Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.
But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.
France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.
The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.
Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26
As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26
As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".
Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.
With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".
On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."
On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."
Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."
Produced by Mathilde Bénézet
Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42
This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.
Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats
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- Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
- Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe