Several European countries are under new coronavirus restrictions Saturday to combat new waves of infections.
About one-third of France’s population is under lockdown after measures were imposed Friday in Paris and several regions in northern and southern parts of the country.
In Poland, which is seeing the highest number of daily cases since November, new measures have forced non-essential shops and other facilities to close for three weeks.
Non-essential stores have also been closed in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, where only food markets are allowed to keep their doors open.
France, Germany and Italy resumed use Friday of a coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca after health officials sought to allay concerns it may cause blood clots.
The European nations resumed inoculations after the European Medicines Agency (EMA), an agency that regulates medicine, said the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine was “safe and effective” and the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. body responsible for public health, said “available data do not suggest any overall increase in clotting conditions” among those who have been vaccinated.
However, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the country’s health advisory body is recommending AstraZeneca vaccinations only for people 55 or older.
French officials cited an assessment by the EMA that it could not rule out a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a small number of blood clots, particularly in younger women. The EMA said that overall, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of side effects.
The WHO repeated its recommendation Friday for countries worldwide to continue to administer shots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. The agency’s expert committee on coronavirus vaccines said the AstraZeneca vaccine has “tremendous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths” and said “it is not certain” the blood clot cases have been caused by the vaccine.
In an effort to boost public confidence in the vaccine, French Prime Minister Jean Castex received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccination Friday, saying it demonstrates “complete confidence.”
Italian Premier Mario Draghi said Friday that he would also take the vaccination when his age group’s turn arrives.
In Denmark, health officials said Friday they would wait another week before deciding whether or not to resume giving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Officials in Norway and Sweden have also said they will wait a week before announcing a decision.
Meanwhile, Brazil reported a record number of new daily coronavirus cases Friday — 90,570. The country’s health ministry also reported the second deadliest day since the pandemic began with 2,815 COVID-19 deaths. Brazil is battling a more contagious local variant of the virus.
In the United States, health officials announced the country had reached President Joe Biden’s goal of giving Americans 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office.
Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new distance guidelines for schools Friday, saying 3 feet of distance for masked students is adequate instead of the previously recommended 6-foot span.
“These updated recommendations provide the evidence-based roadmap to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
Biden visited the CDC’s headquarters Friday in Atlanta, Georgia, where he praised workers for their efforts to fight the pandemic.
“What you’re doing really, really matters,” he said, noting that the CDC workers are not just saving lives but also changing mindset of country.
In the southern U.S. state of Florida, parts of a resort owned by former U.S. president Donald Trump are closed after several staff members contracted the coronavirus. An email sent to Mar-a-Lago club members said services have been temporarily suspended in the resort’s dining room and beach club while “all appropriate response measures,” are being enacted to sanitize the space.
Trump had a bout with COVID-19 last year and has since been inoculated with a COVID vaccine.
Global spectators will be barred from entering Japan for the summer Olympic games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee said Saturday.
The committee said tickets bought by overseas residents would be refunded.
The pandemic forced the postponement of the Olympic Games last year, but organizers have said they are committed to hosting the games this year, despite waning public sentiment.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center says there are 122.3 million global COVID-19 infections. The top three countries with the most cases are the U.S. with 29.7 million infections, Brazil with 11.8 million and India with 11.5 million.