WUHAN | One year to the day after the spectacular confinement decreed in the city of Wuhan, now free of the coronavirus, many countries still have no other solution than to restrict travel and activities in order to hope to end an epidemic that does not abate .
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“We are at 400,000 dead, and it should reach much more than 600,000,” said Friday, New US President Joe Biden, who had never mentioned such a heavy toll.
In Wuhan, the cradle of the pandemic which has killed more than two million people, the city has now been completely free from the virus since last May, even if a limited epidemic resurgence has materialized in recent days in other regions of China. Beijing began screening two million of its inhabitants on Friday after a few cases of COVID-19, including some of the English variant.
But in Wuhan, the atmosphere is now celebrating after strict confinement, unprecedented in history, having completely emptied the streets of this city of 11 million inhabitants.
The DJs are boosted, the sound system spits out the decibels and the revelers prepare for a sleepless night: Wuhan’s youth are savoring their new-found freedom, at a time when the rest of the world is confined or restricted in its movements.
New restrictions thus come into force on Saturday to respond to the growing concern about the dangers represented by the variants of the coronavirus, despite the weariness which is also growing.
Even more deadly
And for good reason. Coronavirus variant first discovered in Britain could be even more deadly, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “It also now appears that there is evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London, and in the South East [de l’Angleterre], may be linked to a higher degree of mortality, ”he said at a press conference.
For men in their 60s, the risk of death is 10 in 1,000 with the virus, a figure that reaches 13 to 14 in 1,000 with the new variant, said government scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.
The European agency in charge of epidemics has, for its part, raised to “high / very high” the risk associated with new variants, predicting “a rapid escalation of the stringency of measures in the weeks to come”. In Germany, a first case of a Brazilian variant has been identified in a person returning from Brazil, the authorities of the state of Hesse (west) said on Friday.
Faced with this risk, several countries have reacted. A nighttime curfew goes into effect in the Netherlands on Saturday, as does a new weekend lockdown in Colombia. In Israel, you now need a mandatory test to be allowed to enter the country.
Earlier this week, several European countries announced tightening restrictions. Belgium has decided to ban its population from non-essential travel outside its borders from Wednesday until 1er March.
Closure of schools
Under confinement for a week, Portugal closed its schools, nurseries and universities for 15 days on Friday. In Spain (55,000 deaths and 2.4 million cases), the end-of-year celebrations have boosted contamination. The Madrid region, one of the hardest hit, announced new restrictions on Friday, bringing forward the curfew time and the closing times of bars and restaurants.
Hong Kong has established a first lockdown for this weekend, in a poor and densely populated district.
These new restrictions are not going smoothly with part of the population, which is desperate to find its previous life, at restaurant tables, at the theater, at the cinema or on the terrace of cafes.
They reopen on Saturday in Jince in the Czech Republic to protest against their closure. In Copenhagen, a demonstration by opponents of the restrictions is scheduled for the afternoon.
Another bad news, the deliveries of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine in Europe will be less important than expected due to a “drop in yield” at a manufacturing site, the British group told AFP on Friday.
France, on Friday, asked the American laboratory Pfizer to meet its delivery commitments regardless of the number of doses available per bottle.
“He must honor his commitments,” insisted the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune. Russia’s “Sputnik V” vaccine has not yet been authorized in the EU, but the Hungarian government, criticizing European “delays”, announced on Friday an agreement to buy up to two million doses.
The other Moderna vaccine has raised some fears due to severe allergies. But these are rare and affected only 10 people out of more than 4 million first doses administered in the United States, assured US health authorities on Friday.
After a peak, the pandemic has nevertheless decelerated everywhere this week (634,200 new daily cases on average, or -12%), except in Latin America where the city of Rio de Janeiro has given up organizing its traditional carnival this year.
The epidemic has killed 2,092,736 people and infected more than 97 million people, according to an AFP count. Europe and North America concentrate two thirds of new contaminations.