‘Situation now worse than during peak in March’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 25, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:51 AM, September 25, 2020

‘Situation now worse than during peak in March’

EU urges new measures to head off coronavirus second wave; Trump says may block stricter FDA guidelines for vaccine

The EU yesterday raised the alarm on coronavirus saying the epidemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, as governments in Europe and beyond reimpose drastic restrictions. 

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides warned that in "some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March."

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"This is a real cause for concern," she said, urging new measures to head off a second wave of the virus, which has killed at least 978,448 people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China late last year.

The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year, but cases of new infections are soaring once again in many areas of the bloc.

In a statement, the EU's Stockholm-based disease control agency pointed to Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Malta as countries of particularly "high concern."

The seven have "an increased proportion of hospitalised and severe cases" among older people and "increasing or high death notification rates are already observed... or may be observed soon," said the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

Other countries such as France and Britain have observed rising infection rates primarily among younger people, who are less at risk of developing severe symptoms.

But these too are on a worrying path as older people are increasingly infected, the ECDC said.

Israel and France were among the latest nations to tighten infection control measures, shuttering restaurants, workplaces or gyms as businesses already hammered by lockdowns at the start of the year struggle to stay afloat.

France's health minister on Wednesday announced drastic restrictions in some particularly hard-hit areas of the country.

In the southern city of Marseille, bars, restaurants and gyms will close while bars in Paris and 10 other cities will close at 10:00 pm. Gyms will also be shuttered in the capital.

Israel, which has the world's highest coronavirus infection rate as a proportion of its population, has gone even further.

Last week, it imposed a second nationwide lockdown that included school closures and restrictions on work and leisure.

But realising that wasn't enough, with some hospitals reaching capacity, it decided yesterday to toughen its measures still further. The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.

Authorities are also considering closing Ben Gurion international airport outside Tel Aviv.

As restrictions are being imposed, so protests and anger are rising as businesses worry about their survival and individuals fret about their jobs, relatives and mental health.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo yesterday said she had lodged a formal protest over her city's new restrictions, particularly the closure of gyms.

Health experts also warned that governments risked losing the trust of the population.

For some, that lack of trust also extends to the rush to get out a vaccine, with nine candidates worldwide currently in final clinical trials.

In Russia, a vaccine has already been approved even though full clinical trials have yet to be completed, raising concerns about its safety. The country yesterday saw 6,595 new cases, official daily data showed, the biggest rise in over two months.

In US, President Donald Trump said he may or may not approve any new, more stringent FDA standards for an emergency authorization of a vaccine, saying such a proposal would appear political.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday the US Food and Drug Administration would issue the guidance to boost transparency and public trust as health experts have become increasingly concerned the Trump administration might be interfering in the approval process to rush out a vaccine.

Trump, however, questioned why a vaccine would need to be delayed and said such a proposal by the FDA would appear to be politically-driven.

"We're looking at that and that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it," Trump told a White House news conference, when asked about the Post report.

Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine for Covid-19 could be ready for distribution ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.


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