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Covid-19: New scientific model can predict virus peaks of contamination in Europe

Issued on: 25/09/2020 – 17:26Modified: 25/09/2020 – 17:29

A team of researchers has revealed a pio..

Issued on: Modified:

A team of researchers has revealed a pioneering model that aims to predict the rate of propagation of Covid-19 in each country in Europe.

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It was battle stations on September 24 when Brussels demanded European countries immediately tighten their control measures in the face of the spread of Covid-19, in order to avoid a second wave of the pandemic. The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention singled out 13 European countries with alarmingly rising rates of infection, including France and Britain.

French Minister of Health Olivier Véran preempted the announcement on September 23, when he declared new restrictions to prevent soaring rates of the virus in all French territories.

Although the race against a second wave of Covid-19 is well underway on the continent, a team of scientists has set about modelling the future trajectory of the virus's spread in Europe. Their simulations, published on September 23 in the scientific journal Nature, predict that all European countries will have reached the peak of the second wave of the pandemic by January 2021 at the latest.

Model borrowed from particle physics

France may not have long to wait as the next peak is predicted for the beginning of October. In the United Kingdom, the number of new infections looks set to continue to rise until mid-November. Poland and Sweden, two countries relying on herd immunity to fight the virus, are expected to keep rising until the beginning of next year.

To achieve these predictions, a team of scientists, led by French National Centre for Scientific Research physicist Giacomo Cacciapaglia, has adopted an innovative approach to simulate the temporal evolution of the epidemic: particle physics. Researchers have applied an equation typically used to predict the interactions between tiny physical elements to the trajectory of the coronavirus.

"We found that by applying this model, we obtained a result that was consistent with what happened during the first wave and we wanted to test it to try to anticipate what might happen," says Cacciapaglia, speaking with FRANCE 24.

The advantage of this method lies in its simplicity. Compared to mathematical models traditionally used in epidemiology, "there are far fewer parameters that need to be included in the equation in order to carry out the simulations", explains Cacciapaglia.

In this case, the researchers only took into account the total number of Covid-19 infections in each country and also any movements within a territory and between European States from March to July 2020. There was no need to take into account factors such as levels of social distancing, the average number of people per household or other criteria that are required in other models.

It is this simplicity that made it possible to construct projections at a wider European level. "The more parameters we integrate, the more variations are possible in each territory and this is what can make large-scale modelling difficult," says Cacciapaglia.

Virus spreading faster in France than expected

The other side of the coin is that this model, because of its simplicity, only allows "one aspect of the epidemic to be controlled, that is the speed of spread of the virus", Cacciapaglia points out. It gives no indication of the scale of the epidemic, as in the precise number of cases, or the mortality rate.

It was also necessary for scientists to assume thRead More – Source

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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.

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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".

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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

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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
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

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.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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