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Italy extends ‘red zones’ as number of Covid-19 cases hits new record

Issued on: 14/11/2020 – 07:04Modified: 14/11/2020 – 07:06

Restrictions aimed at slowing a surge in..

Issued on: 14/11/2020 – 07:04Modified: 14/11/2020 – 07:06

Restrictions aimed at slowing a surge in coronavirus cases will be extended in various Italian regions, with both Tuscany and Campania set to be designated as high-risk "red zones", the health ministry said on Friday.

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Italy registered a record 40,902 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total since the disease came to light in February to 1.107 million – a threefold increase in barely a month.

Looking to limit the spread, the government last week created a three-tier system, with varying degrees of curbs in each area, initially placing four regions in a red zone, two in an orange zone and the rest in a moderate-risk yellow zone.

It tweaked the zoning at the start of this week and revised it again on Friday after reviewing the latest data, including local infection rates and hospital occupancy.

Tuscany and Campania will be added on Sunday to the red list, joining the wealthy northern regions of Lombardy, Piedmont and Valle D'Aosta, the province of Bolzano and Calabria in the toe of Italy.

People living in these areas are only allowed to leave their homes for work, health reasons or emergencies. Bars, restaurants and most shops must remain closed.

Nine regions in orange zone

Nine regions will now sit in the intermediary orange zone – Emilia-Romagna, Friuli, Marche, Abruzzo, Basilicata, Liguria, Puglia, Sicily and Umbria. Just five remain in the yellow zone, including Lazio, centred on Rome, and Veneto.

Campania has jumped straight from the yellow to red zone after medics warned that the health system there was close to collapse, with huge queues building outside hospitals and some patients put on oxygen in their cars as they awaited admission.

But even in the north, officials have warned that hospitals are struggling to cope as the number of coronavirus sufferers climbs ever higher and staff battle exhaustion.

"We had just four cases here in Lombardy in August. Now we have more than 800 (intensive care) beds occupied by COVID-positive patients," said Enrico Storti, director of the intensive care unit in a hospital in the northern town of Lodi.

"We now know what to do, we are now for sure better prepared compared with the first wave … but we are also tired and it is not easy to find the same energy, to find the same strength that we were able to use in the first hit," he told Reuters.

(REUTERS)

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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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