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COVID-19

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

Quarantine, schools, shops and borders closed, gatherings banned, here are the main measures that have been taken so far in Europe to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What are the main measures being taken across Europe to fight coronavirus pandemic?

The World Health Organization warned Friday that Europe was now the “epicentre” for the global coronavirus pandemic and reporting more daily cases than China did at the height of its outbreak. 

“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a virtual press conference, describing the more than 5,000 deaths worldwide as “a tragic milestone”.

Confinement

Italy's population of 60 million has to stay at home until April 3, but can go out to work, for health reasons or to buy food.

In Spain, four parts of the northeastern region of Catalonia have been quarantined, as have two communes in the Austrian region of Tyrol.

Austrians returning from Italy will be confined.

People returning from the main coronavirus hotspots must stay at home for two weeks in Croatia, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia.

In Norway, all people returning from abroad will be quarantined and some cities have banned people from disembarking from cruise ships, a measure also taken by Portugal and Spain.

In Luxembourg and Portugal visits to retirement homes are banned, while in Belgium they are either prohibited or strictly limited. They are restricted in Sweden. 

In France visits are suspended in establishments housing elderly and dependent people.

Restaurants and shops closed

In Italy only essential shops selling foodstuffs or healthcare items are allowed to open.

Austria has decided to close non-essential shops from Monday and to close cafes and restaurants at 3:00 pm.

Bulgaria has closed non-essential shops.

In Belgium, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants will be closed until April 3. Shops will be closed at the weekend, except for grocers and chemists

In the Czech Republic, restaurants must close between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Madrid authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to close their outside areas.

Borders controlled or closed

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have announced the almost total closure of their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles.

Ukraine plans to close its borders to foreigners for at least two weeks.

Poland has imposed health checks at all it borders.

Austria has suspended rail links, and almost entirely closed its border with Italy, requiring medical certificates and health checks from people seeking entry. It has also suspended air links with France, Spain and 
Switzerland.

Slovenia has also set up health vetting measures at the border with Italy.

Germany has strengthened checks at the French border.

Schools closed

Schools and universities are closed in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Ukraine.

Pupils will also stay at home next week in Belgium, Croatia, France, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland, and in most German regions.

Gatherings banned

In Belgium, Cyprus and Italy all gatherings have been banned.

The Czech Republic has banned meetings of more than 30 people.

Denmark and France are to drop the threshold to 100 people.

Iceland, from midnight on Sunday, and the Netherlands and Switzerland have outlawed gatherings of more than 100 people as have Austria, Hungary and Romania for indoor meetings, with 500 for those outdoors.

Finland and Sweden have set the bar at 500 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on organisers to cancel non essential events gathering less than 1,000 people, a threshold also in force in Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

Moscow has banned meetings of more than 5,000 people.

Transport disrupted

Rome's second airport, Ciampino, is to close from Friday evening, while Fiumicino, which handles international flights, is to close one of its three terminals from March 17.

In Slovakia all international airports are closed.

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HEALTH

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.

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