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Future virus ‘more deadly’ than Covid-19 will spark new pandemic, WHO chief warns

A virus even more transmissible and fatal than Covid-19 will lead the world into the next pandemic, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, noting the “evolutionary certainty” of such an occurrence.

“Make no mistake, this will not be the last time the world faces the threat of pandemic,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the UN agency’s annual assembly of health ministers from its 194 member states on Monday. “It’s an evolutionary certainty that there will be another virus with the potential to be more transmittable and more deadly than this one.”

On a more positive note, Ghebreyesus said the global number of Covid-19 cases and deaths reported has been decreasing for three consecutive weeks.

But the WHO chief stressed that the world remains “in a fragile situation” and cautioned against any nation assuming it is “out of the woods, no matter its [Covid] vaccination rate.”

He also reiterated his previous calls for governments to donate Covid-19 inoculation doses to the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility backed by the WHO and the Gavi vaccine alliance.

So far, the global rollout of Covid jabs has seen more than 75% of all doses administered in just 10 countries, according to WHO data. Ghebreyesus said such “scandalous inequity” is “perpetuating” the pandemic. He has previously referred to the situation as “vaccine apartheid.”

The efficacy of the world’s current crop of Covid-19 vaccines does not appear to be undermined by emerging variants of the virus, such as the strain first detected in India, Ghebreyesus said. But he did warn variants are “changing constantly” and that any future strains could “render our tools ineffective and drag us back to square one.”

Courtesy of rt.com

https://tinyurl.com/ypw7wbmu

COVID-19: Strict national lockdown imposed on France as Emmanuel Macron warns ‘the numbers are charging away from us

France will widen strict lockdown restrictions – which have already been in place in several areas including Paris – to the whole country to combat a third wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe.

In a televised address to the nation, President Emmanuel Macron said the measures will come into effect on Saturday and be in place for at least a month.

He warned the country would “lose control if we do not move now”, introducing restrictions including closing non-essential shops, and shutting schools for three weeks after Easter.

He said timetables will be adapted to allow for one week of online lessons, followed by a two-week holiday.

There will be a month-long domestic travel ban, and a nationwide 7pm-6am curfew will remain in place.

Mr Macron said “the numbers are charging away from us” and France is now faced with “a race against the clock”.

The extended measures mark a departure from the government’s policy in recent months, which has focused on regional restrictions.

School closures in particular had been seen as a very last resort, with the president appearing reluctant to bring in the measure and saying children’s education was “non-negotiable”.

His announcement comes after doctors warned that hospitals are on the brink of being overwhelmed by the number of sick people needing treatment.

Daily new infections hit 59,038 on Wednesday, up from around 20,000 in February.

And on Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care breached 5,000, exceeding the peak hit during a six-week long lockdown in the autumn.

Mr Macron revealed worrying new data had been seen in recent days, including figures showing 44% of patients in French ICUs are now under the age of 65.

Sky’s Europe correspondent Adam Parsons said of the president’s address: “This really was a classic bit of Emmanuel Macron rhetoric. It was a speech laced with care, with politics and also with a little grain of self-aggrandisement.”

He said that the measures announced are “pretty much the pillars of the lockdown of last year”.

Mr Macron had been holding off another national lockdown since the start of the year, hoping to steer France out of the pandemic while giving the economy a chance to recover from a deep slump.

However, in recent weeks, options have narrowed as the highly contagious and virulent coronavirus variant first detected in Britain has swept across France and much of Europe.

Ten days ago, the government shut non-essential stores and limited people’s movements in Paris and other regions ravaged by the virus.

The president defended his choice not to introduce stricter measures earlier, saying he believes the government “acted rightly” to trust the public.

But he did admit to having “made mistakes” in his handling of the pandemic which he had “learned” from.

“At every stage of this epidemic, we could tell ourselves that we could have done better, that we made mistakes. All of this is true,” he said.

“But I do know one thing: we held on, we learned, and we got better every time.”

Following the news, Labour’s shadow home secretary said it is now “even more urgent” stricter border controls are imposed on France.

“It’s reckless and unacceptable for only 1% of international arrivals to quarantine in a hotel,” said Nick Thomas-Symonds.

Courtesy of Sky News

https://tinyurl.com/fesnkkxn

7 die at Spanish care home after getting Pfizer Covid-19 jab as ALL residents test positive for virus, second doses still to come

COVID-19 Alert

All 78 residents at a nursing home in central Spain have tested positive for Covid-19 after being given their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and at least seven people have died, staff confirmed on Monday.

Most of those who succumbed to the virus had existing conditions, according to Spanish news agency EFE, while four residents are currently hospitalized, and 12 staff have also been infected.

The huge outbreak is at the Lagartera Residence for the Elderly in the Toledo area, southwest of the capital Madrid.

The home’s 33 staff must now present a negative PCR test before they start work, and a spokesperson said that health measures to contain the spread of the virus are in place “at all times.”

“On January 13, all residents, including nursing home staff, were vaccinated with the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and after six days the first symptoms began to appear in ten of the residents,” they said in a statement.

Some members of staff began to go off sick with the virus five days after being inoculated.

On January 21, management approved the decision to test all residents of the home and quarantine them to their rooms, with families informed of the move.

The testing results, on January 25, showed that all the residents had caught the virus apart from one, who then also tested positive at a later date.

In December, Spain’s Supreme Court ordered an investigation into deaths at nursing homes, which were a disturbing feature of the early pandemic, making up 69 percent of all Covid-19 fatalities between April 6 and June 20.

The Lagartera Residence for the Elderly insisted the current outbreak was its first of the pandemic, having remained virus-free during the first two waves of infections.

The next doses of the vaccine are to be administered at the home on February 3, and the next round of PCR tests will be carried out on February 5.

Across Spain, almost 1.5 million people have been injected with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

More than 58,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Spain and the country has registered more than 2.7 million cases of the virus in total.

Courtesy of rt.com

https://tinyurl.com/2fdnwem8

Massachusetts congressman tests positive for Covid-19 after getting 2 shots of Pfizer vaccine

COVID-19 Alert

Representative Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts has tested positive for Covid-19, his office said. The lawmaker received his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine before Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The 65-year-old tested positive on Friday, his office said. A staff member in his Boston office tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, spokesperson Molly Rose Tarpey added.

Lynch “had received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and subsequently received a negative Covid-19 test prior to attending President Biden’s Inauguration,” on January 20, the statement added, without specifying the date. Lynch has not developed any symptoms and feels fine, but will remain in self-quarantine, voting in Congress by proxy.

The vaccine requires two shots administered several weeks apart, and some time afterwards, to fully kick in, and none of them claim to offer full protection, so it’s possible to be infected even after both doses. A false positive test is also possible.

Another Massachusetts representative, Lori Trahan, reported testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday. She said she was asymptomatic and self-isolating, and plans to cast her votes by proxy, too. Last week, during a visit to Washington, she tested negative, she said.

Massachusetts currently has nine congressional districts, with all House seats held by Democrats. Lynch and Trahan represent the 8th and 3rd districts respectively.

Courtesy of rt.com

https://tinyurl.com/287zsp2q