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COVID-19

Europe’s Covid-19 ‘hotspots’ to be sent four million more vaccine doses

The European Union will receive an extra four million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses over the next two weeks to be deployed to Covid-19 "hotspots", European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

Europe's Covid-19 'hotspots' to be sent four million more vaccine doses
Photo: AFP/ ECDC

The delivery — over and above already agreed supplies from the vaccine-maker — will go to affected border regions within the bloc to “help ensure or restore free movement of goods and people”, she said in a statement.

The announcement came as the commission attempted to persuade at least six member states — including her home country Germany — to lift virus-related border restrictions deemed by Brussels to be excessive.

It also follows a trip by the leaders of Austria and Denmark to Israel toform a vaccine-producing alliance that exemplified broad criticism of the lack of deliveries so far under the commission’s pre-purchasing scheme.

Von der Leyen said the four million extra BioNTech/Pfizer doses will be delivered “before the end of March” and will help member states deploy “their targeted use where they are most needed, in particular in border regions”.

She said they would go to “tackle aggressive variants of the virus and to improve the situation in hotspots”.

Von der Leyen pointed to steep rises in infections and hospitalisations in Austria’s Tyrol region, France’s Nice and Moselle regions, Bolzano in Italy, and parts of Germany’s Bavaria and Saxony regions.

Those had led to “stringent measures” by some member states “and even in certain cases to impose new border controls,” it said.

The statement pointed out that BioNTech/Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine was showing itself to be “highly effective” against the new variants.

It added that the four million extra doses would be made available for member states to buy according to their population size.

Image by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

Escalation plans

Von der Leyen called the additional agreement “quick and decisive action” on the part of her commission, and emphasised that restoring freedom of movement within the EU was “key for the functioning of health systems and the Single Market”.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed von der Leyen’s announcement, saying it would mean an additional 46,500 BioNTech/Pfizer doses for his country.

“When they get here, they will be administered quickly,” he tweeted.

The Netherlands’ Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted that the extra delivery would mean 169,000 more doses of that vaccine for his country.

France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said the agreement meant “nearly 600,000” extra doses for his country.

EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton, who heads a task force to clear vaccine production bottlenecks, said on Tuesday — before von der Leyen’s announcement — that the bloc was expecting delivery of 55 million doses of different vaccines in March.

Von der Leyen has said that deliveries would jump to 100 million doses per month in April, May and June. Her goal is to have 70 percent of adults in the EU fully vaccinated by mid-September.

Member comments

  1. I do not think there is a need for more vaccines in France, they will just stay in the freezer as France can not even efficiently poke away the doses they already have. France is so far behind, with their bureaucratie. They look and say ‘Oops this is a hotspot, just lock the place down’ instead of ‘Emergency here, get pokers organised and start vaccinating everyone who wants in this area’.

  2. No need to give bureaucrate France more vaccines, they can not even poke away the vaccines they already have. Look how far behind France is……. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Hotspot? Every logic person has the solution, Mobilise pokers and vaccinate everyone in this area as a matter of urgency. Those 20 year olds are superspreaders, not the 80 year olds. Not even the naughty ones who stick their nose above their mask. Those masks who if they were the solution would have reduced cases by now! Yesterday 30000 again. Probably a good idea in public transport, now you see single people in cars and outside wear them in areas where there is fine, how much people love their masks……. Sigh.

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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