COVID-19 Could Overwhelm France, Top Doctor Warns

A man has a PCR test for the novel coronavirus at a medical laboratory in Paris amids the Covid-19 pandemic on September 4, 2020.
Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

France will face a months-long coronavirus epidemic that will overwhelm its health system if something does not change, one of the country’s top medical figures warned Sunday.

“The second wave is arriving faster than we thought,” Patrick Bouet, head of the National Council of the Order of Doctors, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Fresh restrictions to slow the spread of the disease in the country’s worst-hit areas, including the Mediterranean city of Marseille and the Paris region, have run into local resistance.

Bouet told the paper that warnings delivered this week by Health Minister Olivier Veran had not gone far enough.

“He didn’t say that in three to four weeks, if nothing changes, France will face a widespread outbreak across its whole territory, for several long autumn and winter months,” Bouet said.

There would be no medical staff available to provide reinforcements, and France’s health system would be unable to meet all the demands placed on it, he warned.

The health workers responsible for the spring “miracle” would not be able plug those gaps, he added.

“Many of them are exhausted, traumatised.”

France’s health service on Saturday recorded 14,412 new cases over the previous 24 hours — slightly lower than the record 16,000 registered on both Thursday and Friday.

But over the last seven days, 4,102 people have been hospitalised, 763 of whom are being treated in intensive care.

On Saturday, Marseille bar and restaurant owners demonstrated outside the city’s commercial courthouse against forced closures due to start this evening.

AFP

French PM Urges Public ‘Responsibility’ In COVID-19 Battle

France’s new Prime Minister Jean Castex looks on at the police station of La Courneuve, a northern Paris suburb, on July 5, 2020, during one of his first official visits following his appointment as Premier on July 3. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

 

France’s prime minister urged the population to take “responsibility” for limiting the coronavirus outbreak by wearing masks to protect one another, saying a new epidemic lockdown cannot be ruled out.

In an interview with France Inter, Jean Castex said people who resisted mask-wearing, now compulsory in the workplace, enclosed public spaces and on public transport, should “think of others”.

“They all have vulnerable and elderly people in their families. People feel invincible and think that they do not need a mask.

“People will contaminate others,” he warned. “I appeal to a sense of responsibility.”

Castex said the French government alone could not bear all responsibility for curbing the outbreak, and “everyone must feel invested in the fight against the epidemic.”

France on Tuesday reported over 3,300 new infections in 24 hours, with new admissions to hospital and intensive care also continuing an upward trend observed in recent weeks following a dip brought about by a near two-month social lockdown.

Asked whether the government could issue new stay-at-home orders if the situation spirals out of control, Castex said Wednesday “all hypotheses” were on the table, though a new lockdown was “not the goal” given the severe economic impacts.

– ‘Cannot drop our guard’ –

The government is to unveil details of an economic revival plan worth some 100 billion euros ($118 billion) on Thursday next week, and Castex announced the cultural sector would receive two billion euros to cover lost revenue.

He added a 5,000-person limit for concerts and sporting events will remain in place.

In addition, local authorities in departments with high virus rates, including the Paris Ile-de-France region, will no longer have the power to grant exceptions to the attendance limit.

Given that no proven vaccine or cure exists, Castex warned the population must learn to “live with the virus”.

But life also has to go on, and Castex said the government would do all it can for the French to resume work, school and social and cultural participation “as normally as possible”.

Masks are being made compulsory for children aged 11 and older when they return to school next week and will be provided for free to those at particular risk or cannot afford it.

But “we are not going to pay for masks for families that don’t need” assistance, said the premier.

Masks are now compulsory in the busiest areas of many French towns and cities, including the capital.

On Tuesday, the southern port city of Marseille became the latest to make face coverings compulsory city-wide outdoors, while bars and restaurants will close every day at 11 pm.

AFP

DR Congo Declares End To Deadly Measles Epidemic

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday declared the end of a 25-month outbreak of measles that claimed the lives of more than 7,000 children aged under five.

The outbreak was countered by vaccination on a massive scale, in which millions of children and infants were immunised.

“For the past month, we are able to say that this epidemic has been eliminated from across our territory,” Health Minister Eteni Longondo told a press conference.

“We can say that measles (in the DRC) no longer exists.”

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Once common, the disease has been rolled back around the world thanks to a cheap and effective vaccine, but low rates of immunisation among a community can cause infection to spread quickly.

“The measles epidemic was unfolding at low level but was the deadliest. It carried off more than 7,000 of our children,” Longondo said.

Routine vaccinations will continue in order to prevent the virus from bouncing back, he added.

The first cases of measles in the latest outbreak were recorded in June 2018. As of January this year, the WHO had recorded more than 335,000 suspected cases of the disease, of which 6,362 were fatal.

By way of comparison, the DRC — a vast country the size of continental western Europe — has recorded 9,891 cases of coronavirus, of which 251 were fatal.

An outbreak of Ebola in the east of the country, which was declared over on June 25 after nearly two years, killed 2,287 people.

The announcement in Kinshasa came ahead of an expected declaration Tuesday by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) that wild poliovirus has been eradicated from Africa.

Health teams have been fighting to wipe out polio’s last vestiges on the continent, in northeastern Nigeria, where jihadists said vaccination was a conspiracy to sterilise young Muslims.

AFP

EU Hopes To Heal Rifts In Debate On Post-virus Plan

European Union, Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and technology

 

Europe’s scattergun approach to the coronavirus epidemic has called into question the EU’s ability to rise to the challenge, but Brussels hopes its economic recovery plan will mark a turning point.

The huge 750-billion-euro package, unveiled on Wednesday by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, will not emerge unscathed from the coming months of debate between the 27 EU capitals.

But it was not rejected out of hand by the Frugal Four — conservative spenders Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden — and it has cautious French and German backing, which leaves it room to breathe.

And, if it does serve as the basis for economic recovery after the ravages of the epidemic, some in Brussels dare hope that it will prove a breakthrough moment for further European integration.

This comes despite fears raised in the first weeks of the virus’ rapid spread across the open borders and free economies of the continent — when capitals imposed piecemeal measures with little EU coordination.

The first test of Von der Leyen’s plan came at a meeting of EU ambassadors where, in the words of one source familiar with the proceedings, it was “broadly well-received” by member states.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Do Not Cut Health Spending During Downturn, WHO Warns

“No-one said ‘no way’,” one European official said. “On that level alone it’s a success for the Commission, which finally brought out something that didn’t self-destruct two minutes later.”

A diplomat acknowledged that the frugals — who oppose transfers of funds to the more heavily indebted countries of the south like Spain and Italy — “had lots of questions”.

“But none of them said the plan couldn’t be a basis of negotiation,” the source said.

The next big challenge will fall on June 19, when the 27 EU leaders will meet — probably by video conference, given the ongoing epidemic — to hold their planned European Council summit.

“They’ll just discuss it. They need an opportunity to argue and get cross for a bit, before coming to a deal,” the diplomat said.

– A real summit at last? –

At a videoconference, without side meetings for private horse trading between member states, there is unlikely to be a deal. But Brussels sources expect a second — face-to-face — summit in July.

If that leads to a deal, then member state parliaments might be able to approve the EU budget and the relaunch plan in time for it to go into action by the start of next year.

If not — as many expect, including the German government, which will hold the EU presidency for the second half of 2020 — then the wrangling could go on all through summer.

And that will again underline the capitals’ diverging priorities.

The Frugal Four want to avoid the theoretically time-limited “Next Generation EU” revival plan forming the basis for a future “transfer union” shifting funds from the rich north to poorer south.

In the eastern half of the union, capitals like Warsaw, Budapest and Prague want to protect the “cohesion funds” and agricultural subsidies that support their smaller economies.

And in the Mediterranean, where the financial crisis has left countries like Italy and Spain in deep debt, capitals want support from the EU to come mainly as grants rather than new loans.

The frugals are sceptical about that, and have already ruled out the issue of “coronabonds” to produce shared debt, but some in Brussels think their worries can be assuaged.

“The frugals need to bring some trophies to their parliaments,” the European official said, suggesting that rebates on EU dues or tough conditions applying to support grants might appease them.

“We’re a long way from April’s fight over coronabonds. We’ve made a real step forward,” the source argued.

“We’ll insist on the fact that it’s no longer a North-South fight, but a fight to get economic activity back,” Spain’s foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez told radio station RNE.

– German stars align? –

If so, it will be a relief to many in Brussels.

As the coronavirus spread to Europe earlier this year and caught hold around the EU — most intensely in Spain and Italy — EU members adopted clashing strategies to deal with it.

France and Germany at first prevented exports of protective gear to their neighbours, states imposed border controls and caused traffic jams while national lockdowns varied in timing and severity.

The row over coronabonds revived the simmering north-south rift, and the Commission came under fire for failing to coordinate.

Now though, a shift in Germany may help bridge the divide. Chancellor Angele Merkel has worked with France’s President Emmanuel Macron to seek compromise — and Von der Leyen is a fellow German.

“That helps,” the European source said. “German stars are coming into alignment.”

AFP

Italy Proposes 60,000 Volunteers For Post-virus Vigilance

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 tourists walk across St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark's Campanile (Rear L), St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear R) and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale, R) in Venice. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Italian officials have proposed creating a 60,000-strong corps of volunteer “civic assistants” who would remind people of the need to observe measures against coronavirus infection as the country emerges from lockdown.

The force, to be drawn from among pensioners and the unemployed, is the brainchild of Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia and Antonio Decaro, mayor of the southern city of Bari.

The civil protection unit, which manages the various volunteers helping to fight against the COVID-19 epidemic that has caused nearly 33,000 deaths in Italy, would be charged with the recruitment.

They would answer questions and remind the public of social distancing rules, or the need to wear masks, in crowded areas such as beaches, parks and city streets. The volunteers would not be able to fine people.

Decaro said Monday that some of these potential volunteers had already “helped deliver groceries or medicines to those who could not leave their homes during the crisis.”

“In this new phase, they will help control access to parks or markets, counting the number of people entering or leaving, or explaining the rules of access to beaches when they reopen,” Decaro, who is also president of the Association of Italian Municipalities, said in a statement.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Unease In Greece As Restaurants, Cafes Reopen

Some authorities said they welcomed the idea of more help in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis as they struggle with crowd control at bars, cafes and beaches after two months of lockdown.

“Civic assistants can be useful,” said Paolo Truzu, mayor Sardinia’s capital Cagliari, adding that he envisioned them helping on his city’s beaches.

Others, however, scoffed at the idea.

“How can we think that 60,000 people found who knows where, trained who knows where will be going around Italy telling Italians what to do on the basis of rules that nobody understands?” asked former government minister Carlo Calenda, leader of the small centrist Azione party, on Twitter.

“Is this normal and legitimate in a democratic country?”

Giordano Masini, member of the pro-European Piu Europa (More Europe) party, said what Italy needed was more capable professionals.

“We need doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, educated people,” Masini said.

AFP

Spain Unveils 14-day Quarantine For Arrivals

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

People arriving in Spain will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday.

The measure comes into effect on Friday and will remain in force until May 24 when the state of emergency expires — or beyond if the measure is extended, it said.

“This measure is considered proportionate to the gravity of the situation and in line with the controls reestablished along internal borders by a large number of member states of the European Union,” the order said.

“The favourable evolution of the epidemic in our country and the start of the rollback make it necessary to reinforce measures of control,” it said.

“Given the global distribution of the virus and working from the principle of precaution, it is necessary that anyone coming from abroad observe a 14-day quarantine period.”

During that time, they would only be allowed out to buy essentials or for urgent medical treatment and always wearing a mask.

READ ALSO: Virus Hope In US As WHO Hails Global Progress

The measure will not apply to cross-border workers, those transporting goods, airline staff and medical personnel arriving in Spain as long as they have not been in contact with anyone infected by the virus.

During the two-week period, the health care authorities “could make contact to ensure the quarantine is being followed”, it warned.

Spain, one of the countries worst-hit by the virus which has so far claimed nearly 27,000 lives, closed its land border when the state of emergency was declared in mid-March.

AFP

Ebola Epidemic In DR Congo Now Exceeds 1,000 Cases

File Photo:

 

The number of cases in a nearly eight-month-old epidemic of Ebola in eastern DR Congo now exceeds 1,000, almost two-thirds of whom have died, the health ministry said late Sunday.

“The accumulated number of cases is 1,009,” of which 629 cases were fatal, it said.

The outbreak was first recorded in North Kivu province on August 1, and then spread to neighbouring Ituri province.

Its toll is the second deadliest in the history of Ebola, after an epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014-6 that claimed 11,308 lives, according to the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ebola virus disease was first discovered in 1974 in a village near the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola River, which gave the disease its name.

Efforts to contain the latest outbreak, the 10th in the DRC’s history, have been hampered by poor security in the highly unstable east, which teems with militia groups.

DR Congo Ebola Outbreak On ‘Epidemiological Knife Edge’ – WHO

 

A deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has a clear “potential to expand”, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday, as it reported seven more cases of the disease.

“We are on the epidemiological knife edge,” Peter Salama, in charge of emergency response at the WHO, told a special meeting on the outbreak that has killed 27 people.

“The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control,” said Salama.

The agency issued a new toll, saying there had been 58 cases since the outbreak was declared on May 8 — an increase of seven over figures issued on Tuesday — and said it was actively following more than 600 contacts.

One of the world’s most notorious diseases, Ebola is a virus-caused haemorrhagic fever that spreads through contact with bodily fluids and can lead to fatal bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes or ears.

The outbreak began in rural northwestern DRC in a remote location called Bikoro.

Last Thursday, the first case was reported in Mbandaka — a city of around 1.2 million people that lies on the Congo River, acting as a transport hub to Brazzaville and Kinshasa downstream and to Bangui, upstream.

 ‘Can spread quickly’ 

So far, seven cases have surfaced in Mbandaka districts, WHO said.

“An urban case means that it can spread quickly. That is another challenge,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Wednesday’s session during the agency’s annual World Health Assembly.

The proximity of the outbreak to neighbouring countries, especially through the river connection, was a major concern, he said.

“They are connected, they are very close, and that is another challenge that makes the problem really serious,” he said.

Salama said that another concerning factor was that five healthcare workers were among those infected.

“That is a tragedy in its own right, but it also signals the potential for further amplification,” he said.

At the same time, though, the top WHO officials and DRC’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Zenon Mukongo Ngay, who spoke at the event, stressed the massive efforts put in place to halt the outbreak.

Salama said in just the two weeks since the outbreak was declared, clinical care facilities have been set up, an air bridge has been established to Bikoro, emergency financing has been mobilised, protective gear and emergency medical kits have been supplied.

In addition, a vaccination campaign has begun and more than 120 WHO staff alone have been deployed alongside numerous staff from other organisations under the leadership of the DRC government.

“It is hard to recall a situation of an outbreak where a government has responded more quickly and more decisively than in this outbreak,” he said.

‘Highly targeted’ vaccination 

A campaign using an experimental vaccine got underway this week, starting with first responders, before moving to any people known to have been in contact with suspected cases, and then on to the contacts of the contacts.

“This is not mass immunisation, this is highly targeted ring vaccination,” Salama said, pointing out that the aim was to form “protective rings around (each) case to protect the people themselves, but also to prevent further community transmission.”

He told AFP that some 10,000 people should be vaccinated within the next month.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, meanwhile said WHO response teams have been sent to most of the nine surrounding countries to ensure they are sufficiently prepared in case the virus spreads beyond DRC.

“We are working very hard with the countries in the surrounding area to ensure that their readiness and their preparedness could be up to the task of a case arising in these countries,” she told AFP.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to contain this epidemic,” she said.

AFP

Edo Govt. Sets Up Situation Room To Curb Spread Of MonkeyPox

The Edo State Government has released emergency hotlines to the public and established a fully-equipped situation room to curb the spread of Monkeypox in the state.

The Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, disclosed this to journalists while briefing them on the outcome of the weekly Executive Council meeting held at the government house in Benin City, the Edo state capital.

While assuring residents of the proactive plans of the government to guard against further spread of the disease, he advised that anyone who observes any symptoms of the disease should call the emergency lines.

He also stated that a massive public enlightenment campaign on preventive measures against the disease would be embarked upon across the 18 local government areas of the state.

“The state Ministry of Health has been asked to reactivate an old centre located at Ikpoba slope area of the state, to serve as a dedicated situation room. This is so that the outbreak can be monitored.

“We are calling on citizens to be circumspect but calm and adhere to good health practices that will prevent contracting and spreading the disease.”

Furthermore, the commissioner noted that the EXCO received the design and approved the siting of 20 mini-stadia across the 18 local government areas of the state to serve as training grounds for the sports talented youths.

Confirmed Case Of Monkey Pox Recorded In Akwa Ibom

The Monkey Pox epidemic, first detected in Bayelsa state, appears to have spread to neighbouring south-south states as there a confirmed case of the epidemic in Akwa Ibom state.

One confirmed case has been recorded in the state, while two other suspected cases are under investigation.

This latest outbreak was confirmed in a statement by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Charles Udoh. the disease which has no known treatment or vaccine exhibits similar symptoms to smallpox, but it is milder, and larger rashes appear on the skin.

Udoh said the disease which has no known treatment or vaccine exhibits similar symptoms to smallpox, but it is milder, and larger rashes appear on the skin.

READ ALSO: Facts About Monkey Pox Disease

He warned residents to avoid excessive handshakes and abstain from eating bush meat. Regular handwashing is also advised.

The first reported cases of the Monkey Pox outbreak were recorded in the Fangbe area of Bayelsa state on October 5, where 13 people were hospitalised and 49 suspected cases quarantined.

Queens College Students Resume Classes

queens-collegeThe Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has directed the resumption of exam classes (JSS3 & SS3) only, of students of the Queens College, Yaba, Lagos state.

They are expected to resume as day students from Monday March 20, 2017 between the hours of 7:30 am-2:30 pm.

The new directive is coming contrary to the earlier text messages sent by the school management, asking all parents to return their wards to school on March 19.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. OlaJide Idris, during a news conference on Thursday, had advised that the School resumption “be delayed till appropriate measures have been put in place for the safety of the students”.

Subsequently, some parents visited the school to meet with the Principal, Mrs Aduke Are, and get first hand information about the resumption as well as see what measures have been put in place to safeguard the welfare and safety of their wards.

Mrs Are, while addressing the parents, assured them that management had been following all the recommendations by the Lagos State Ministry of Health.

She said among other developments, that a water treatment plant had been certified while the 500ft deep industrial bore hole which serves as the main source of water for the entire premises has also been revamped and is functioning.

Two Students Dead

A laboratory report had shown that since the beginning of January 2017, over 1,222 students of the secondary school, have been treated at the school’s clinic for abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Also, 16 of them have been purportedly admitted to various hospitals in the country, and while two others have died, one is said to be currently in the intensive care unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).

This was revealed in a statement by the Unity School Old Students’ Association (USOSA).

The association added that water sources in the school were contaminated by pathogens.

“The analysis also indicates that the boreholes that provide principal sources of water for the school are too shallow and too close in proximity to the sewage systems, to which the contamination has been traced,”

President of the association, Chidi Odinkalu, subsequently accused the school authorities of concealing the facts from the public, noting that the school has shown reckless disregard for the lives of the students.