France’s Haute Autorite de Sante health regulator said it was backing the additional doses for those aged 18 and over, and that the interim period between full vaccination and the booster shots should be shortened to five months instead of six.
Health minister Olivier Veran set out the plans in a press conference on Thursday.
Elsewhere, scientists have issued a warning over a Covid variant with an “incredibly high” number of mutations. It is feared that the B.1.1529, or Botswana variant – an off-shoot of the B.1.1 – could drive further transmission of the virus.
The first cases found were three in Botswana, followed by another six cases in South Africa, and one in Hong Kong involving a traveller returning from South Africa.
Slovakia locks down to curb highest infection rate in the world
Slovakia went into a two-week lockdown on Thursday, as the country with one of the EU’s lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped global tables.
Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, ordered all but essential shops and services closed and banned people from travelling outside their districts unless going to work, school, or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people were banned.
The decision comes as coronavirus cases surge across Europe, making the continent the centre of the pandemic again, and follows neighbouring Austria which started a lockdown on Monday.
In the city of Trencin, 130 km (81 miles) north of Bratislava, musical instrument shop manager Roman Spatny said his income was tied to sales and would vanish with another lost Christmas season.
“For us this is a plain knife in the back. We have to be closed at a time that business-wise is the most important for us, same as last year,” he said. “Important decisions are taken from one hour to the next. There is no way to properly react to this.”
Student Natalia Paskova, 17, saw little choice: “The situation is getting worse so the decisions are justified,” she said.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:54
France confirms extended booster programme but no lockdown
France has launched a plan Thursday to give Covid booster shots to all adults, as it opted against a further lockdown or curfew to help combat a worrying uptick in infections in the country.
Health minister Olivier Veran laid out the plans during a press conference in which he announced a reduction in the time gap between second and third shots from six to five months. He said France already has enough vaccines to launch the nationwide booster campaign.
Veran also laid out a swathe of measures seen as tightening the use of masks in public areas and said that the country’s COVID pass, which is required in many indoor places across the country, will become invalid if a person has not received a booster shot within seven months of a second dose.
He said that there are ten times more unvaccinated people currently hospitalized because of the virus than vaccinated ones, adding that without the vaccine the country would already be in a lockdown situation.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:35
Cancer treatment and organ transplants postponed in Netherlands due to Covid surge
Some Dutch hospitals have halted chemotherapy treatments and organ transplants to free up intensive care beds for a surging number of Covid patients, an official said on Thursday.
The Dutch Hospital Association for Critical Care said it had asked health minister Hugo de Jonge to escalate the national plan to a stage under which regular care requiring an overnight stay would be cancelled.
The number of coronavirus patients in hospital has hit levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in little more than a week if the virus is not contained. Several patients were transferred to German hospitals this week.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:16
Turkey’s domestic vaccine applies for emergency authorisation
Turkey’s domestically developed vaccine, Turkovac, has applied for emergency authorisation, health minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday, adding he hoped the shot would be available for use by year-end.
Speaking at his ministry’s budget debate in parliament, Koca said work on Turkovac was nearing completion, and added the shot would mark the first Phase III clinical research project to be fully carried out by Turkey.
“I would like to share a piece of good news for our people: our domestic inactive Covid vaccine Turkovac has applied for emergency authorisation as of today,” Koca said.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:00
Russia records 1,238 deaths in 24 hours
Russia has confirmed 33,796 new Covid cases and 1,238 deaths over the past 24 hours.
The cases have been confirmed in 85 regions in Russia, the federal response centre said on Thursday.
In the same 24 hours, 38,450 patients were discharged from hospitals across the country.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 12:40
EU to propose nine-month limit on Covid travel certificates
The EU will propose introducing a nine-month time limit on Covid vaccine certificates for travel, it has been reported.
According to Bloomberg, the bloc will urge countries to continue accepting tourists but prioritise those who have had a jab in the previous nine months.
The plan is expected to be announced later, Bloomberg said.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 12:20
Germany hits grim milestone of 100,000 deaths
Official figures released Thursday show Germany has become the latest country to pass the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid since the pandemic began. Germany’s disease control agency says it recorded 351 additional deaths in connection with the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 100,119. In Europe, Germany is the fifth country to pass that mark, after Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 12:00
Cases continue to rise in France
On Wednesday, before reports of booster shots emerged, health authorities in France recorded over 30,000 new infections for a second day in a row, a sequence unseen since end-April.
The seven-day moving average of daily new cases – which evens out reporting irregularities – stands at a three-month high of 21,761 and has almost quadrupled in a month.
The number of people treated in intensive care for Covid is nearly 1,500, a figure last seen at the end of September.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government said it would focus on tougher social distancing rules and a faster booster shot programme and that it wanted to avoid imposing lockdowns again as some other European countries have done.
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 11:45
Generally, spike mutations allow viruses to adapt and become more virulent, and more able to evade natural and vaccine immunity.
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said the variant could be “of real concern” as its 32 mutations in its spike protein could enable it to more easily evade a person’s immune system and spread to more people.
My colleague Lamiat Sabin has more details below:
Matt Mathers25 November 2021 11:42