France: Expert criticises Macron’s vaccine response
The coronavirus pandemic first hit Europe a year ago but despite an intense battle against the spread of infections, a third wave of Covid is spreading quickly throughout Europe, forcing much of the continent, including France and Italy, to go back into lockdown over Easter. The EU’s vaccination programme has stumbled from one disaster to the next, triggered by a war of words with vaccine maker AstraZeneca over production and supply issues. Earlier this month, more than half of the 27 EU member states temporarily suspended administering the AstraZeneca shot, citing reports of a small number of blood clots in patients that had received the jab, before the European Medicines Agency (EMA) insisted the vaccine was safe.
Germany has recorded nearly three million Covid cases and in excess of 77,000 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
Over the last month, the country’s daily Covid case rate has ranged from 9,000 to 20,000, still significantly off the peak of 49,000 cases registered in a single day in December.
But last month, Angela Merkel’s Government preformed a dramatic 24-hour U-turn by ditching plans for a national Easter lockdown following a furious public backlash.
This has left the country’s 16 federal states to instead implement their own measures but despite changing her mind on another national lockdown, the German leader urged people to stay at home over the long weekend.
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Hannah Weiler, a medical student in Cologne, Germany, told CNBC: “It is just a big mess. Everyone is frustrated with the Government.
“Germany is a prime example of absurdity.
″All 16 federal states do their own thing and the government appears unable to come up with a clear strategy.”
She added the “mood started to really go downhill, which the politicians interpreted as a wish for looser restrictions so they started opening shops. … Surprise, surprise, cases are rising and we’re in the third wave now”.
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France and Italy meanwhile both announced nationwide lockdowns that came into force before the long Easter weekend following a spike in cases inked to the more contagious variant first identified in the UK at the end of last year.
There are increasing fears over the escalating situation in France, with the country recording more than 66,000 new infections on Sunday – triple the daily rate in February – as hospitals begin to already become overwhelmed with an influx of patients.
This is more than 1,000 percent higher than during the first wave to hit France last spring, when new daily cases were in their 5,000s at highest a year ago.
But Government and health officials now fear the country is heading towards a return of the record infection levels recorded in November, when nearly 90,000 infections were announced in just one day.
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France has the unfortunate title of recording the most Covid cases in Europe (4.8 million), while there have also been 96,000 deaths from the virus.
Liz Warren, an American living in Paris, told CNBC: “At this point, almost everyone has lost confidence in how the French Government is handling Covid.
“No one really understands certain measures that have been taken — i.e. places of worship remaining open and nonessential shops being forced to close.
“It is a big mess and I don’t foresee this country catching up with the US or UK until at least the fall.”
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More than 6,600 police officers in Paris have been deployed to enforce the new lockdown rules announced by President Emmanuel Macron last week, with a curfew running from 7pm until 6am and gathering of more than six people banned.
But unlike during previous lockdowns, there is no time limit on how long people can remain outdoors, while residents can also travel within six miles from their homes as opposed less than one mile during past lockdowns.
However, many of the French are now fed up with being in lockdown and don’t think the latest lockdown rules will be strictly followed.
Romain Baudelet, a student in the coastal city of La Rochelle, told CNBC: “For me, with the third confinement, I’ve had enough.
“I don’t think it will be very well followed here.”
Italy also announced a three-day lockdown over Easter, including banning all non-essential travel but allowing churches to remain open during the religious holiday and enabling people to have Easter meals at home with a maximum of two other adults.
Around 3.6 million Covid cases and more than 111,000 deaths have been recorded in the country, with its daily case rate standing at 20,000, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
This is half the number seen during the peak experienced in November, but also increased from around 13,000 cases each day in February and significantly above its peak of 6,000 per day in spring 2020.