Protesters dressed in white take part in a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus restrictions in Liestal, Switzerland. (Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse)
Sourced from the web by Tracy Cabrera
PARIS, FRANCE — New lockdowns measures have been introduced by several European countries as they battled surging coronavirus infections even as organizers of the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics scheduled this July organizers were forced to announce an “unavoidable” ban on overseas fans to keep the Games safe.
Polish residents and those in some parts of eastern France and Ukraine’s capital Ukraine are all facing new restrictions with most shops and other business establishments and offices were shut down and most people urged to work from home.
Frustrations with Covid-19 curbs spilled over in other regions in Europe with scuffles breaking out at a large anti-restrictions protest in the city of Kassel in Germany while thousands joined in similar demonstrations in Liestal, Switzerland and in London, England.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the global pandemic is still speeding up worldwide as the number of new Covid-19 infections rose globally by 14 percent over the past week.
Signs held by demonstrators in Kassel read ‘End the Lockdown’ and ‘Corona Rebels’. The protesters were organized by a group that has drawn in activists from the far-left and far-right as well as anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.
In Africa, Madagascar president Andry Rajoelina reiterated his own vaccine skepticism, adding that it would be an untested herbal remedy he has previously touted “that will protect (him) and (his) family.”
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan became the latest world leader to test positive—two days after receiving China’s Sinopharm vaccine. The former cricketing legend is self-isolating with mild symptoms, Khan’s spokesperson said.
More than a third of France’s population is now under a renewed lockdown as the country, along with several European neighbors, battles a third wave of the virus.
But the curbs are lighter than those enforced at the height of the pandemic last year with schools remaining open and hairdressers, shoemakers and chocolate shops added to an expanded list of businesses allowed to accept customers in a bid to keep economies afloat amidst the pandemic-triggered recession.
The French government has also scrapped the forms once required to justify all trips outside the home, which were widely derided as an example of excessive bureaucracy.
The row over AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine meanwhile shows no signs of abating, with European Union (EU) chief Ursula von der Leyen threatening to halt exports of the vaccine if the bloc does not receive its deliveries first.
The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant has delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million vaccine doses it had promised for the first quarter of the year, blaming production delays at its EU plants.
“We have the option of banning a planned export. That’s the message to AstraZeneca: You fulfill your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries,” von der Leyen warned.
European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has fallen short on its commitments to Europe while fully delivery to the United Kingdom—something that has allowed the recently-departed EU member to give half of its adult population at least one jab as of Saturday, March 20 the current year.
AstraZeneca has also had to contend with worries that its vaccine could cause blood clots, with more than a dozen countries placing a pause in its use recently.
Several European countries, including Germany and Italy, resumed AstraZeneca vaccinations after an ‘all-clear’ signal was issued by EU regulators and WHO.
However, Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have all said they want more information before ordering a rollout of the vaccine once again.
Seeking to reassure their populations, British prime minister Boris Johnson and his French counterpart Jean Castex both received a dose of AstraZeneca last week.
Brazil, meanwhile, said it was in talks with the United States to import Covid-19 vaccines that Washington is not currently using and has already vowed to share with Mexico and Canada.
Meanwhile, with more than 400 million vaccine doses already injected globally, organizers of the Tokyo Olympics had previously billed this summer’s Games as a chance to provide “proof of humanity’s triumph over the virus.”
Still, top officials of the Olympic committee have announced that overseas fans would be banned as it remains too risky to invite large international crowds to Japan.
“We have to ensure a safe and secure environment for all the participants. It was an unavoidable decision,” Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto while noting that the unprecedented ban will make the Tokyo Olympiad the first time ever that the Games will be without overseas spectators. (AI/MTVN)