The Netherlands and Austria are days away from imposing new lockdowns in a bid to stop a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Uneven vaccine coverage and a relaxation of preventive measures have brought Europe to a ‘critical point’ in the pandemic, the World Health Organisation said last week.
Restrictions coming into force tomorrow in the Netherlands are the first by a western European country since the summer.
Bars, restaurants and non-essential stores will be ordered to close at 7pm for at least three weeks starting on Saturday, a Dutch broadcasting organisation said citing government sources.
People will be urged to work from home as much as possible, and audiences will be banned from attending sporting events in the coming weeks.
Schools, theatres and cinemas, however, are set to remain open.
The partial lockdown, due to be announced by prime minister Mark Rutte in a televised press conference scheduled for 6pm, would last longer than the 14 days recommended by the government’s outbreak management team.
Brits are still allowed to visit the Netherlands if they are fully vaccinated, even though Dutch authorities currently classify the UK as a ‘very high risk country’.
Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the Netherlands must show either a negative PCR test result or a a negative antigen test result, according to Government guidance.
The Dutch authorities have not yet indicated that it plans to further restrict foreign travel but this could change.
Latvia was the first country to reimpose lockdown in Europe to combat the fourth wave of Covid-19.
The country announced a month-long lockdown three weeks ago after an unprecedented surge in infections.
President Vladimir Putin declared a holiday period for Russia from October 30 to curb infections, however, it ended on November 7.
New restrictions on the Netherlands would mean a drastic turn in policy for its government, which until last month thought that a relatively high vaccination rate would mean it could further ease measures towards the end of the year.
However, new Covid-19 cases in the country of 17.5 million have increased rapidly after social distancing measures were dropped in September.
According to the latest figures, they hit a record of around 16,300 in 24 hours.
This has led to pressure on hospitals, forcing them to scale back regular care again to treat patients with the virus.
But the Netherlands is not alone in reintroducing stricter controls.
Austria is also considering locking down millions of people not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in lockdown in a matter of days.
Officials in Upper Austria province, which has the lowest vaccination rate and the highest infection rate, plan to impose restrictions from Monday if given the green light by the federal government.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg pointed out a lockdown for the unvaccinated was ‘probably unavoidable’ and that they faced an ‘uncomfortable’ winter and Christmas.
During a visit to Bregenz in western Austria, he said: ‘I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering.
‘For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated.’
Austrian regional governor Thomas Stelzer also described the situation as ‘dramatic’.
Those who are not vaccinated will have restrictions placed on their daily movements, including bans from restaurants, hotels, hairdressing salons and large public events.
Courtesy of metro.co.uk
A fourth wave of coronavirus is in “full force”, Germany’s health minister has warned, after a 55% rise in cases over the past month.
Europe is “back at the epicentre” of the pandemic, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe director Dr Hans Kluge, and is the only place in the world where COVID is “still increasing”.
Infection rates across the region have risen by 6% in the past week alone, WHO bosses told a Geneva news conference on Thursday.
This has also resulted in an increase in hospital admissions – which have more than doubled in a week – and virus-related deaths – which have increased by 12%, Dr Kluge added.
German health minister Jens Spahn announced on Friday that booster vaccines will now be given to all adults six months after their second dose as a way of tackling the increase.
“A fourth COVID wave is now with us in full force,” he said.
“We are at the start of a very difficult few weeks.”
Despite Germany having vaccinated 67% of its population, it is still experiencing a dramatic surge.
On Friday, health officials reported the highest number of daily infections for a second day in a row (37,120), which far exceeded its previous winter peak of 33,777 from 18 December 2020.
Several countries in central and eastern Europe, including Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are also seeing two-week average case rates of over 1 in 1,000.
But many of these infections are happening in unvaccinated people, experts have said.
Slovakia, for example, reported a new record number of daily cases – 6,805 – on Friday and has one of the lowest vaccine rates in the EU.
Its health ministry confirmed that 69% of the new infections were in unvaccinated people.
Professor Andrew Preston, of the University of Bath’s biology and biochemistry department, said Europe’s surge could be down to both poor vaccination rates and a lack of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Some eastern European countries have very low vaccination rates and there you are seeing most of the cases in the unvaccinated,” he told Sky News.
“But in Germany yesterday they had a record number of cases and that probably reflects a pattern of what happens when you unlock with high levels of virus circulating.”
Dr Michael Ryan, of WHO’s health emergency programme, called on European governments to “close the gap” in their vaccine rollouts in response to the spike.
“There may be plenty of vaccine available, but uptake of vaccine has not been equal”, he said on Thursday.
WHO director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of maintaining some restrictions to reduce cases in Europe.
“Vaccines alone will not end the pandemic,” he said. “Vaccines do not replace the need for public health measures [which] remain important in every country.”
Dr Ryan added that “exhaustion” in “health workers, communities and government” is “leading to complacency”, “gaps in testing, clinical management and vaccination”.
“It is through those gaps” that transmission occurs, he said.
Although some European countries have reintroduced social distancing and face masks in public spaces in recent weeks, Professor Preston says this is only a temporary solution.
“The question is how do we move forward in a world where, even in countries with high vaccination rates, you still see high levels of virus transmission?
“In eastern European countries, reimposing restrictions might help buy time to increase low vaccination rates.
“And in places where there is significant pressure on health services, alleviating that with short term measures seems sensible.
“But because vaccines are not absolute in stopping people becoming infected, we need to decide what level of COVID-induced damage we are prepared to tolerate in order to return to ‘normal’.”
Courtesy of Sky News
Health authorities in Guinea have confirmed one death from Marburg virus, a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
It marks the first time that the deadly disease has been identified in West Africa. There have been 12 major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.
Guinea’s new case was first identified last week, just two months after the country was declared free of Ebola following a brief flare-up earlier this year that killed 12 people.
The patient, who has since succumbed to the illness, first sought treatment at a local clinic before his condition rapidly deteriorated, the WHO statement said.
Analysts at Guinea’s national haemorrhagic fever laboratory and the Institute Pasteur in Senegal later confirmed the Marburg diagnosis.
“The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said in the statement.
“We are working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in managing Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way,” Moeti said.
Both the Marburg case and this year’s Ebola cases were detected in Guinea’s Gueckedou district, near the borders with Liberia and Ivory Coast. The first cases of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, the largest in history, also were from the same region in Southeastern Guinea’s forest region.
Marburg case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management, WHO said, adding that transmission occurs through contact with infected body fluids and tissue. Symptoms include headache, vomiting blood, muscle pains and bleeding through various orifices.
Courtesy of reuters.com
China is racing to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak in months, as health officials blamed the highly infectious Delta variant for a surge in infections spanning 14 provinces.
China reported 328 symptomatic infections in July, almost equal to the total number of local cases from February to June.
“The main strain circulating at present is the Delta variant … which poses an even greater challenge to virus prevention and control work,” said Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission (NHC).
The outbreak is geographically the largest to hit China in several months, challenging the country’s early success in snuffing out the pandemic within its borders after Covid-19 seeped out of Wuhan.
But that record has been thrown into jeopardy after the fast-spreading Delta variant broke out at Nanjing airport in eastern Jiangsu province earlier this month.
More than 260 infections nationwide have been linked to the cluster in Nanjing, where nine cabin cleaners at an international airport tested positive on 20 July.
Hundreds of thousands have already been locked down in Jiangsu province, while Nanjing has tested all 9.2 million residents twice.
The contagiousness of the Delta variant combined with the peak tourist season and high passenger circulation at the airport has led to the rapid spread of this outbreak, NHC official He Qinghua told reporters.
Fresh cases reported today in two more regions – Fujian province and the sprawling megacity of Chongqing – included one patient who visited the tourist city of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, and an international cargo crew member who recently travelled from abroad, authorities said.
Officials in one Chongqing district ordered emergency mass testing late yesterday for people who had visited venues linked to confirmed cases.
After one asymptomatic case was discovered in Zhengzhou, the epicentre of recent deadly floods in central Henan province, city officials ordered mass testing of all 10 million residents.
The head of the city health commission was also sacked.
The tourist city of Zhangjiajie in Hunan province locked down all 1.5 million residents and shut all tourist attractions yesterday, according to an official notice.
Health officials said the virus was likely brought there via the Nanjing cluster, according to preliminary investigations.
Officials are now scrambling to track people nationwide who recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie, and have urged tourists not to travel to areas where cases have been found.
After reports that some people sickened in the latest cluster were vaccinated, health officials said this was “normal” and stressed the importance of vaccination alongside strict measures.
“The Covid vaccine’s protection against the Delta variant may have somewhat declined, but the current vaccine still has a good preventative and protective effect against the Delta variant,” said Feng Zijian, virologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 1.6 billion vaccine doses have so far been administered nationwide as of yesterday, the NHC said. It does not provide figures on how many people have been fully vaccinated.
Health officials have said they are aiming for 80% of the population to be fully vaccinated by year-end.
Worldwide, coronavirus infections are once again on the upswing, with the World Health Organization announcing an 80% average increase over the past four weeks in five of the health agency’s six regions, a jump largely fuelled by the Delta variant.
First detected in India, it has now reached 132 countries and territories.
“Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference.
He stressed that the “game plan” still works, namely physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene and vaccination.
But both high and low-income countries are struggling to gain the upper hand against Delta, with the vastly unequal sprint for shots leaving plenty of room for variants to wreak havoc and further evolve.
Meanwhile in Australia, where only about 14% of the population is jabbed, the third-largest city of Brisbane and other parts of Queensland state are to enter a snap Covid-19 lockdown today as a cluster of the Delta variant bubbled into six new cases.
“The only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said while informing millions they will be under three days of strict stay-at-home orders.
The race for vaccines to triumph over variants appeared to suffer a blow as the US Centers for Disease Control released an analysis that found fully immunised people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant can spread the disease as easily as unvaccinated people.
While the jabs remain effective against severe disease and death, the US government agency said in a leaked internal CDC document “the war has changed” as a result of Delta.
An analysis of a superspreading event in the northeastern state of Massachusetts found three-quarters of the people sickened were vaccinated, according to a report the CDC published yesterday.
The outbreak related to 4 July festivities, with the latest number of people infected swelling to 900, according to local reports. The findings were used to justify a return to masks for vaccinated people in high-risk areas.
“As a vaccinated person, if you have one of these breakthrough infections, you may have mild symptoms, you may have no symptoms, but based on what we’re seeing here you could be contagious to other people,” Celine Gounder, an infectious diseases physician and professor at New York University, told AFP.
According to the leaked CDC document, a review of findings from other countries showed that while the original SARS-CoV-2 was as contagious as the common cold, each person with Delta infects on average eight others, making it as transmissible as chickenpox but still less than measles.
Reports from Canada, Scotland and Singapore suggest Delta infections may also be more severe, resulting in more hospitalisations.
Courtesy of rt.ie
The UK is dealing with an outbreak of monkeypox, Health Secretary Matt Hancock casually told MPs today.
Two people – both members of the same household – are being monitored after the virus was identified in North Wales.
One is currently being treated in a hospital in England, health chiefs confirmed.
Public Health Wales has said the wider risk to the public is “low”.
It is understood one person contracted the virus overseas, and then passed it to someone they live with.
But Mr Hancock described it as “absolutely standard” while addressing MPs at the Health and Social Select Committee this afternoon.
The monkeypox virus causes a disease with symptoms similar, but less severe, to smallpox, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Describing his response to the Covid pandemic, the Health Secretary said that he had to be constantly aware of outbreaks of other diseases.
He said: He added: “As Health Secretary, you’re dealing with these sorts of outbreaks all of the time – I’m currently dealing with a monkey pox outbreak and cases of drug resistant TB, and that is absolutely standard.”
In a statement Public Health Wales said “two cases of imported monkeypox” have been confirmed.
It said: “Public Health Wales and Public Health England are monitoring two cases of imported monkeypox identified in North Wales.
“The index case was acquired overseas, and the two cases are members of the same household. Both cases were admitted to a hospital in England, where one currently remains.
“Monitoring and follow-up of the cases and their close contacts are undertaken as part of normal practice, and the risk to the general public is very low.”
Monkeypox is zoonosis – meaning it is transmitted from animals to humans.
It often starts with a rash before red spots appear and spread across the body, turning into red bumps filled with fluid.
These are often accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as high temperature, muscle aches and swollen glands.
Cases are often found close to tropical rainforests where there are animals that carry the virus.
Transmission of the disease is “limited”, the WHO has said, and until now it has only been detected in 15 countries.
Richard Firth Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health Wales, said: “Confirmed cases of monkeypox are a rare event in the UK, and the risk to the general public is very low.
“We have worked with multi agency colleagues, following tried and tested protocols and procedures, and identified all close contacts. Actions have been put in place to minimise the likelihood of further infection.
“Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus and has been reported mainly in central and West African countries.”
According to the NHS, monkeypox is usually a mild illness that will get better on its own without treatment.
But it says: “Some people can develop more serious symptoms, so patients with monkeypox in the UK are cared for in specialist hospitals.”
Courtesy of mirror.co.uk
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
The WHO Africa Region division tweeted as we speak: “So far there have been 18 instances, 9 deaths, 523 contacts, 82 % monitored and 1604 individuals vaccinated.” An outbreak has additionally been recorded within the Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO has warned international locations neighboring Guinea weren’t ready for outbreaks or for future vaccination campaigns.
However, at current the worst-hit nation of the newest outbreak is Guinea.
It is the primary outbreak of the lethal virus there since a 2013-2016 outbreak, which was thought of the world’s worst.
The 2013-2016 outbreak unfold all through a number of West African international locations.
The lethal pathogen killed hundreds of individuals throughout its final outbreak and the WHO is fearful in regards to the newest resurgence, particularly amid the coronavirus crises.
The WHO’s Regional Emergency Director Abdou Salam Gueye mentioned: “There are six neighboring international locations to Guinea and we carried out an evaluation of readiness.
“Two of the international locations aren’t prepared and one is borderline and there are three international locations kind of prepared.”
The international locations that border Guinea are at the moment not ready to roll-out mass Ebola vaccination programmes.
Mr Gueye added: “Those neighboring international locations agreed on cross-border cooperation and coordination to management the outbreak.”
The nation has the present capability to inoculate 100 individuals per day.
This would be the first time an Ebola vaccine has been distributed within the nation.
Currently, 1604 individuals had been vaccinated in Guinea.
Bachir Kanté, an official on the well being ministry, mentioned: “In the approaching days, we will likely be in a position to vaccinate extra individuals so as to include this pandemic correctly.”
Courtesy of today-india.in
A bubonic plague outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen several dozen people succumb to the long-feared disease, which caused Europe’s Black Death pandemic in the 14th century.
Multiple cases of the plague were identified in the Biringi area of Ituri Province in northeastern DR Congo between November 15 and December 13, Anne Laudisoit of New York-based NGO, Ecohealth Alliance, told AFP.
At least 520 people have become ill and “more than 31” of them have died, Ituri Health Minister Patrick Karamura told the outlet.
The vast majority of cases involved bubonic plague, with the exception of five instances of pneumonic plague and two instances of septicemic plague, which occur when the disease spreads to the lungs or blood, respectively.
Younger people were most affected, with the average age of patients being only 13. Among those infected was a three-month-old baby, according to Laudisoit.
The plague, which is caused by Yersinia pestis bacterium, is endemic to the province where it was first confirmed in 1926. Outbreaks occur regularly, with the World Health Organization (WHO) also issuing an alert over spiking cases of the disease in Ituri’s Rethy region in July last year.
The latest outbreak began with mass deaths among rats, which had been infected by germ-carrying fleas in their fur. Those fleas then started to look for new hosts and shifted onto humans, infecting them through their bites.
Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease, which occurs after the bacillus travels through the blood and attacks the nearest lymph node. Those swollen and painful lymph nodes that can sometimes break open are known as ‘buboes’. Other symptoms include fever, headaches and vomiting.
The so-called Black Death, which according to various estimates killed between a third and a half of Europe’s population in the mid-14th century, while also heavily hitting North Africa and Asia, was the largest pandemic in human history and was caused by bubonic plague.
The fearsome disease is now curable with several types of antibiotics. However, without proper treatment, the plague can cause death in between 30 to 90 percent of those infected.
However, getting proper medical attention in DR Congo is often difficult as its health system suffers from lack of funding and is hampered by the activity of various militant groups. Besides the plague, the Central African country is also challenged by episodic Ebola outbreaks, malaria, cholera, HIV and other diseases.
Courtesy of rt.com