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AFP
September 12, 2020

France seeing ‘clear worsening’ of Covid-19 outbreak: PM

World

AFP
September 12, 2020

PARIS: France is seeing an acceleration of the Covid-19 outbreak after a surge in infections but aims to avoid any new nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday.There is a "clear worsening" in France of the spread of Covid-19 which has "not lowered in intensity" and "will still be with us for some months," Castex said in a televised statement in Paris.

But he did not announce any major new restrictions, saying France’s aim is to "avoid a general lockdown" and succeed in living with the virus through social distancing, mask-wearing and ramped-up testing.

He said the French government would employ 2,000 more health officials to help trace people who have been in contact with those who have tested positive. Castex announced that those who have tested positive have will only have to isolate for seven days instead of 14.

He said this reflected when people were infectious. “We call on people to respect these seven days to the letter,” he said.Castex expressed particular concern about a rise in cases, especially among older people, in Marseilles, Bordeaux and Guadeloupe.

Health authorities reported 9,843 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, beating by almost 900 a previous record of 8,975, set six days earlier.Iraq has recorded another 4,254 new cases and 67 more deaths from the virus. Despite the recent surge in cases, thousands of supporters of Iraqi shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered at a mosque in east Baghdad for the first time since March.Greece’s death toll from the novel coronavirus hit 300 on Friday, the state health agency said, as the total number of infections topped 12,700.

The Eody agency said 287 new cases were confirmed on Friday, a day after an all-time record of 372 infections in 24 hours was announced. Over half of the country’s 12,734 infections since the pandemic began were recorded in August, mostly among Greeks.

The spike has been attributed to large gatherings in violation of social distancing rules. Greece’s civil protection agency has made masks compulsory in all indoor public areas. The government has ruled out a general lockdown after gradually reopening the economy in May, while foreign visitors have been allowed in since June in hopes of salvaging part of the economically vital tourism season.

Nearly half of Greeks would not take a vaccine for the novel coronavirus even if it were approved and freely available, with almost 20 percent opposing masks as well, a poll said last week.

Authorities in Britain’s second city of Birmingham announced new coronavirus restrictions on Friday as the nation’s reproduction rate, or R number, exceeded 1.0 for the first time since March.

From next Tuesday, more than 1.1 million people are banned from mixing with any other household, after the rate of infection rose from 30 to 75 cases per 100,000 people over a week in August.

"I know this is difficult, particularly when we have got used to seeing friends and family," said Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council."But it is vital we stick to these rules and protect each other given the sudden rise in infection rate."

He added: "The virus has not gone away, it has not weakened, in fact it is relentless and we must be relentless in our efforts to control the spread." Coronavirus rules were tightened this week to ban meetings of more than six people from different households, owing to a nationwide rise in cases.

On Friday, the government said at least 41,600 people had died in the Covid-19 outbreak, and numbers were growing again with an R number of 1.0 to 1.2 across the country. The reproduction rate measures the number of people in a population, on average, infected by each person carrying the virus. Any number above 1.0 indicates the disease is expanding.

Separately, the latest data from a survey of over 150,000 volunteers by Imperial College London put the R rate at 1.7 in England, and they warned that cases were doubling every seven to eight days.

A mass testing scheme for the health ministry found there were 13 people infected per 10,000 in England -- up from four per 10,000 at the beginning of August. "We are now entering a phase of increasing transmission as we head into the autumn," noted Professor Azra Ghani, chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial.

"What is particularly concerning is the widespread nature of this increase, with infection no longer confined to localised areas or identified clusters. "In this circumstance, broader national social distancing measures -- such as those recently announced -- are required to interrupt transmission and slow the growth of the epidemic."