France and Poland Re-Impose Lockdown to Stem Soaring Covid-19 Infections
France and Poland have re-imposed partial lockdowns as both countries battle a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks.
In France, some 21 million people in 16 areas, including Paris, are affected as the country fears a third wave.
In Poland, non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities are now closed for three weeks.
Poland has the highest new daily rates of Covid-19 cases since November 2020.
Covid-19 cases are also rising exponentially in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel warning it is likely that the country will now need to apply an “emergency brake” and re-impose lockdown measures.
The vaccine rollout across the EU has been hindered by delayed deliveries, as well as the suspension in several countries of the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, over fears of possible side effects.
In France, the partial lockdown took effect from midnight on March 19.
Trains leaving Paris for parts of the country where lockdown restrictions do not apply, such as Brittany and Lyon, were reportedly fully booked hours before the measures were due to come into effect.
Traffic jams were reported on several roads leaving the capital.
The new restrictions are not as strict as the previous lockdown, with people allowed to exercise outdoors.
Non-essential businesses are shut, but schools remain open, along with hairdressers if they follow a “particular sanitary protocol”.
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France has reported more than 4.2 million infections since the start of the outbreak, with nearly 92,000 Covid-related deaths, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.
In Poland, the three-week lockdown began on March 20.
Polish health officials earlier warned the nationwide restrictions were necessary because of a rampant British variant of Covid-19 in the country. The variant now makes up more than 60% of infections.
Poland has had more than two million confirmed infections, and nearly 49,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Germany said on March 19 it was now classifying neighboring Poland as high risk. This means that from March 21 anyone crossing the border from Poland must provide a negative coronavirus test.
Despite assurances from the European medicines regulator that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, some countries remain reluctant to resume their campaigns using the jab.
Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands are among the countries that have restarted their AstraZeneca vaccination campaigns.
Health authorities in France have recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be offered only to people aged 55 and over.
Finland’s health authority has announced a pause in its use of the vaccine that will last at least a week. That move, which follows two reports of blood clots in patients who had received the jab in the country, was said to be a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Sweden, Denmark and Norway said on March 19 that they needed more time to determine whether they should resume AstraZeneca inoculations.
On March 20, Denmark said that two members of hospital staff in Copenhagen had developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reviewed the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears of a link to blood clots and found it was not associated with a higher risk of clots.