COVID deaths exceed 1.5 million across Europe

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Europe on Thursday reached the grim milestone of 1.5 million coronavirus deaths as nations struggle to tackle a worsening crisis as winter approaches.

In response, France accelerated its COVID booster rollout, and Germany, with more deaths and infections, weighed in on new measures.

With the world ready for the full onslaught of yet another wave, the European Medicines Agency approved a vaccine for children as young as five years old.

But South Africa reported a new worrying COVID-19 variant with devastating potential, the EU Medicines Agency approved a vaccine for children as young as five years old.

In Paris, Health Minister Olivier Veran said COVID-19 booster shots, so far only available to people over 65 or with health problems, would be available to all adults from this weekend.

From 15 January, persons over 18 must present proof of a supplementary vaccine dose in order to maintain a valid COVID passport, which is required to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and other public venues.

The minister said the austerity measure could see France through the fifth wave without resorting to yet another lockdown, which the government is desperately trying to avoid.

To increase pressure, the European Commission recommended that the vaccination certificate of the block should be invalidated when the holder’s latest dose is more than nine months old.

‘Cruel milestone’

The number of daily new cases in France hit the highest level in seven months on Wednesday at 32,591, but the burden of critical cases in the hospital remains manageable – a fact that experts stress France’s energetic vaccination drive.

Neighboring Germany, meanwhile, reported record deaths and coronavirus infections on Thursday as its total death toll exceeded 100,000 – a “cruel milestone,” Bild said daily – as a new government prepares to replace Angela Merkel’s coalition.

Europe’s largest economy recorded 351 COVID deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll since the start of the pandemic to 100,119.

The weekly incidence rate also hit a record high of 419.7 new infections per year. 100,000 people, according to the Robert Koch Institute’s health agency.

The rise in Germany came as Europe re-emerged as the epicenter of the pandemic, with the continent battling sluggish vaccination in some nations, the highly contagious Delta variant, colder weather sending people indoors, and easing restrictions.

An AFP census of official figures showed on Thursday that more than 1.5 million people have died from COVID-19 in Europe.

Merkel’s presumed successor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday outlined a roadmap by announcing new measures to tame the fourth wave.

These included the formation of a corona emergency task force based on his office and bonuses for overworked health workers.

However, measures announced last week to restrict the unvaccinated from participating in public life have already come under fire.

“Recent decisions are like announcing in a flood disaster a plan to hire more swimming instructors and distribute a pair of water wings and rubber ducks,” the newspaper Sueddeutsche said.

‘Acute congestion’

The German healthcare sector has had to call in hospitals elsewhere in the EU for help. Some clinics are already facing an “acute congestion”, according to Gernot Marx, head of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.

Germany began last week demanding that people prove they have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or recently tested negative before they can travel by public transport or enter workplaces.

Several of the worst affected areas have gone further and have canceled Christmas markets and excluded the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.

Germany’s COVID-19 crisis has been partly blamed for its relatively low vaccination rate of around 69 per cent compared to other Western European countries such as France, where it is 75 per cent.

A campaign for booster shots has been plagued by supply and logistics problems.

As an indication of what is to come, scientists in South Africa said on Thursday that they had discovered a new COVID-19 variant with more mutations, blaming it for an increase in the number of infections.

The variant, which goes by the scientific pedigree number B.1.1.529, “has a very high number of mutations,” said virologist Tulio de Oliveira.

For Health Minister Joe Phaahla, the variant was “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in cases.

Back in Europe, Pfizer / BioNTech got the jab green light for five- to 11-year-olds, paving the way for vaccination in an age group where the virus spread rapidly, bringing the EU in line with the US, Israel and Canada.

The European Medicines Agency, which uses the jab trademark, said that “the benefits of Comirnaty in children aged five to 11 years outweigh the risks”.


France chooses 3rd shot, not lockdown, to fight new wave


© 2021 AFP

Citation: COVID deaths top 1.5 million across Europe (2021, November 25) retrieved November 25, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-covid-deaths-million-europe.html

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