WHO on Thursday criticized the “unacceptably slow” vaccine rollout in Europe and warned of a “worrying” increase in cases, with France becoming the latest country to impose new restrictions to tackle the surge in HIV infections. coronavirus.
In a sign of the devastation the virus continues to cause as the world rushes to deploy vaccines, Brazil reported that the country’s death toll soared last month.
Officials said more than 66,000 people died from COVID-19 in Brazil in March – more than double the number of deaths compared to the country’s second deadliest month of the pandemic, July 2020.
“Never in the history of Brazil has we seen a single event kill so many people” in a month, said Dr Miguel Nicolelis, former coordinator of the pandemic response for northeastern Brazil.
With winter approaching in the southern hemisphere and the virus spreading rapidly, Brazil faces “a perfect storm,” he told AFP.
The outbreak in Brazil has overwhelmed hospitals and forced doctors to make agonizing decisions about who to give life-saving care – prioritizing those most likely to survive.
The virus has killed more than 2.8 million people worldwide since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
And although the world is turning to vaccines to end the upheaval caused by the virus, deployments are starting at a breakneck pace in many countries, especially in Europe.
“Vaccines are our best way out of this pandemic … however, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow,” World Health Organization director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement. communicated.
‘Precious weeks of freedom’
“We need to speed up the process by speeding up manufacturing, reducing barriers to vaccine delivery and using every vial we have in stock,” he added.
The organization said the viral situation in Europe was “more worrying than what we have seen for several months” and that slow deployments “are prolonging the pandemic”.
Five weeks ago, the number of new weekly cases in the region had fallen to less than one million. But last week there were 1.6 million new cases in Europe, the WHO said.
In France alone, daily cases have doubled to around 40,000 and hospitals are spilling out into flashpoints like Paris.
The push forced President Emmanuel Macron to give in and reimpose the national restrictions he rejected in January.
“We have gained precious weeks of freedom,” he said in a national speech Wednesday night, but current measures “were too limited at a time when the epidemic is accelerating”.
The limited lockdown already in place in regions, including Paris, would be extended nationwide from Saturday evening for the next four weeks, he said.
Schools will close for three or four weeks depending on age level, he added.
The measures met with a mixture of resignation and anger, despite Macron’s suggestion that France could start considering a return to normalcy by mid-May.
“Lockdown, the continuation … and the end? “Le Figaro made the headlines on Thursday.
And Le Parisien said Macron was defending his strategy of “slowing down without stopping” even though “the situation has never been so dangerous or complicated”.
As with the first lockdown last spring, parents are scrambling to arrange for another round of distance learning.
“It was absolutely necessary to close the schools, even if it will be complicated for parents, and especially young children, to manage this situation,” explains Laure, a 44-year-old researcher with two young boys in Paris.
In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi extended restrictions until April 30, including restaurant and business closures.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier received the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Thursday, just two days after authorities recommended the vaccine for use only for people aged 60 and over.
German officials have worked to build public confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been a roller coaster ride in Europe.
Several other countries, including France, Spain and Canada, have also placed age limits on the AstraZeneca vaccine due to rare but serious blood clots in younger people.
The European medicines regulator said experts probing the links between the vaccine and blood clots have not found any specific risk factors, although they are continuing their research.
In a setback for another vaccine maker, around 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine were ruined in a factory error, The New York Times reported – a blow to the company’s efforts American to rapidly increase production.
Meanwhile, Taiwan and Palau launched a rare holiday travel bubble on Thursday as the two diplomatic allies attempt to revive their battered tourism industries after successfully keeping infections at bay.
© 2021 AFP
This document is subject to copyright. Other than fair use for private study or research purposes, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for information only.