France and Germany face calls for new lockdowns & Poland braces for another shutdown as Covid third wave ravages EU
FRANCE and Germany are under pressure to impose new lockdowns as a deadly third Covid wave ravages Europe.
Italy was plunged into a near-total shutdown today and Poland is set to toughen restrictions this week amid spiralling infection rates across the Continent.
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It comes as France and Germany today became the latest EU nations to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot fears.
UK regulators insist there is no evidence the life-saving jab is linked to a higher risk of clots and encouraged Brits to have it.
The World Health Organisation also said there was no link and the greater risk was not being vaccinated.
Europe's already shambolic vaccine rollout has been delayed further by the moves, just as infections and deaths soar again.
Italy recorded nearly 27,000 cases and 380 deaths on Friday as hospitals struggle to cope with rising numbers.
“More than a year after the start of the health emergency, we are unfortunately facing a new wave of infections,” said Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Most of the country from Lombardy in the north to Puglia in the south has been placed under the coronavirus "red zone".
Carabinieri cops were today enforcing a ban on leaving home except for essential errands, and most shops are closed along with bars and restaurants.
In Paris, intensive care wards are more than 95 per cent full, forcing the government to evacuate patients to other parts of France on special planes.
Health minister Olivier Véran said of the grim situation in the capital: “Every 12 minutes night and day, a Parisian is admitted to an intensive care bed.”
President Macron has imposed a 6pm curfew and other social limits in several regions, and doctors are now pressing him to urgently introduce another national lockdown.
“If we have to lock down, we will do it,” Jerome Salomon, head of the national health agency, told BFM television yesterday.
“The situation is complex, tense and is worsening in the Paris region.”
But PM Jean Castex said in a Twitch interview: "We have to use all weapons available to avoid a lockdown.
"I've never hid it, let's vaccinate, protect ourselves, get tested."
He urged the sceptical public to have faith in the AstraZeneca jab – hours before French authorities halted its use.
In Germany, 12,674 new Covid infections were reported on Saturday, a rise of 3,117 from the previous week.
The respected Robert Koch institure for public health warned on Friday there will be more daily cases by Easter than at the peak of the second wave in December.
Lothar Wieler, head of the RKI, said: “We must avoid the same situation we were in before Christmas, with many infections, many serious cases and many deaths.”
Intensive care doctors demanded an "immediate" return to national lockdown, warning of an alarming rise in patients needing hospital care.
Christian Karagiannidis, director of Germany’s intensive care register, told broadcaster RBB: "We would argue strongly for returning immediately to a lockdown to avoid a strong third wave.
“Otherwise we are once again going to see 5,000 or 6,000 patients in intensive care.
"You can see very clearly that we will very quickly get back into rising ICU numbers, if we give the virus the opportunity to grow.”
Poland has also seen a steep rise in infections. Last Wednesday's 17,260 new cases was the highest daily figure since November.
People already face tight limits on social gatherings, most schools are closed, and restaurants can only serve meals for delivery.
Even tougher restrictions are likely to be announced this week, government officials indicated.
Hungary and the Czech Republic have also reported high infection rates and deaths from Covid, and officials warned the situation will get worse in coming weeks.
Greece – which has been rocked by anti-lockdown riots – has also seen a Covid surge. ICUs in Athens are now over 95 per cent capacity.
However in Portugal, new cases fell to 577 on Friday after a peak of over 16,000 in January.
Lockdown measures will gradually ease from next week with kids returning to nursery and primary school, and some museums and businesses allowed to open.
Restaurants and cafes could potentially welcome members of the public after May 3.
And in the UK, schools have already reopened as part of a four-step return to normality – with virtually all limits lifted on June 21.
Ministers plan to offer all adults a first vaccine dose by July.
But experts say another surge in infections in the autumn is almost certain.
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