– The University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been renamed Vaxzevria. The name change was approved on March 25 following a request from the company and announced on the website of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, the new name does not imply a change in the formula of the jab.
– France has imposed a one-month nationwide lockdown to stem a third wave of the virus. Schools will close for at least three weeks, people will work from home, and travel within the country will be banned for a month after Easter. “We will lose control if we do not act now,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised speech.
– Meanwhile, French Health Minister Olivier Veran says the peak of the epidemic is only in seven to ten days in the country, with more than 5,000 patients infected with the virus in intensive care, the highest figure since October.
– Italy has made vaccinations compulsory for all health workers, including pharmacists, in a potentially controversial move to protect the most vulnerable and tackle strong anti-vaccine sentiment in the country. Those who refuse can be suspended for the rest of the year without pay.
– German association DIVI for intensive and emergency medicine said the country was in urgent need of a two-week lockdown, faster vaccinations and mandatory testing in schools to contain the third wave of the pandemic. Christian Karagiannidis, scientific director of DIVI, said the country, which has 3,680 intensive care patients with COVID-19, will reach capacity in “less than four weeks”.
– Meanwhile, the prime ministers of two southern German states hit hard by the pandemic (Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg) urged leaders in the rest of the country to reintroduce stricter lockdown measures to try to contain a third wave of infections.
– The Finnish government has withdrawn a draft stay at home order to fight infections in several cities, including the capital Helsinki, said Prime Minister Sanna Marin. A constitutional law committee had previously said the proposal was too vague and violated the country’s constitution.
– Second doses of vaccine outnumber first doses for the first time in UK. A total of 270,526 second doses were recorded on March 30, compared to 224,590 first doses, according to the latest government figures.
– Austria’s capital Vienna and two other eastern provinces have imposed an Easter lockdown to help ease pressure on hospitals. Austrians were told to stay home except for necessary activities such as shopping, work, exercise and helping their families.
– European medicines regulator, European Medicines Agency, investigates 62 cases worldwide of rare blood clotting disease which prompted some countries to limit the use of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The number includes 44 cases in the European Economic Area out of a total of 9.2 million people who have obtained employment in the region.
– The Dutch government wants to use the Eurovision Song Contest, which is due to take place in Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena in May, as a test event, with 3,500 spectators allowed. for all rehearsals and the three big shows. There will be extensive security measures for the 39 participating countries.
– Vaccine developer Johnson & Johnson said a batch of their jabs did not meet quality standards and could not be used. The drugmaker didn’t say how many doses were lost, or how the issue would impact future shipments.
Stuart Smith in Brussels
The Belgian federal government is speeding up the introduction of new coronavirus legislation after a court ruled the current base illegal.
The judges ruled that the law restricting the freedom of Belgians was not designed to close establishments, suspend compulsory education or impose fines for misconduct.
The League for Human Rights, which took the case to court, said: “Even in a health or security crisis, the principles of the rule of law and legality must prevail.”
The state has 30 days to pass new laws justifying the current measures, or it will be fined $ 5,869 per day.
The justice minister says nothing will change while the government appeals and work will continue on a new pandemic law, which is due to be passed after the Easter recess.
Penelope Liersch in Budapest
Prime Minister Viktor Orban addressed the nation on state television on Wednesday evening after weeks of record deaths and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19. Hungary currently has the world’s highest daily coronavirus death rate per capita.
Orban made it clear he believes there are still two to three difficult weeks ahead and insisted the healthcare system still has room, claiming that half of the beds reserved for coronavirus patients were free.
This contrasts with weeks of local media reports that hospitals are struggling and some intensive care units are full, sometimes with not enough ventilators available.
It comes a day after independent Hungarian media wrote an open letter accusing the government of hiding the severity of the pandemic as journalists were not allowed to enter hospitals or speak to doctors – claiming free information could save lives.
Orban spoke to the independent media saying, “Now is not the time to go to hospitals to make cover-up videos or fake news.”
State leaders who had strongly opposed the introduction of new measures to deal with a third wave of coronavirus appear to be loosening their stance as the number of new infections rises in Germany.
This includes some members of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) party, whose newly appointed leader clashed with Chancellor Angela Merkel over her desire to put Germany back under strict lockdown. He told ZDF last night that Easter measures were needed.
The German federal and state governments have been at odds in recent weeks and meetings have been held late into the night, sometimes ending without a firm political agreement. It is partly a power struggle and partly a political game, German business writers have told me.
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