COVID-19 Wave X: Focus on Widespread Testing as Concerns Grow About Rising Infections in Europe

Written by | Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Concerns are mounting in Europe, as new coronavirus infections surge across the continent, after six consecutive weeks of decline. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday (4 March) that over one million new cases have been reported in Europe, representing an increase of nine percent on the previous week. This warning came as French government officials on the same day urged the country’s health workers to get a coronavirus vaccine, pointing that only around 1/3 of them had received the jab so far. “Tomorrow I will write a letter to all health workers in our country to encourage them to get the vaccine,” France’s health minister Olivier Véran told reporters. Having currently only one health worker out of three vaccinated „is not normal and it compromises our ability to fight effectively against the virus,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said. Multiple surveys show that the French are among the most sceptical of vaccines in Europe.
Meanwhile, Germany is set to launch a COVID-19 testing drive in bid to end the lockdown. A plan to roll out rapid tests for mass use – just as other countries have been doing for months – has finally taken shape, after weeks of debates among German state, federal and public health officials. The days of shelling out somewhere between €25-50 for a rapid test may be numbered after the latest pandemic plan was revealed on Wednesday (3 March) by the federal government that puts forward a complex, step-by-step guide to moving Germany out of lockdown. The federal government is expected to start picking up the tab for rapid tests starting next week. Every person in Germany will be entitled to a weekly test, either from a test center, medical practice, or place of work, administered by trained personnel. Schools and day cares are a particular focus, as a means of getting kids and teachers safely and regularly back in the classroom.
On a separate, but related front, Australia has appealed to the European Union after it has blocked its shipment of a quarter of a million AstraZeneca vaccines to the land ‚downunder‘. Italy’s order blocking the dispatch of 250,000 doses was accepted by the European Commission, which has fiercely criticised the Anglo-Swedish company this year for supplying just a fraction of the vaccine doses it had promised. Australia subsequently asked Brussels for a review after its shipment after the vaccines were blocked from leaving the EU in the bloc’s first use of an export control system designed to ensure big pharma companies would respect their contracts. The move, affecting only a small number of vaccines, underscores a growing frustration within the 27-nation bloc about the slow rollout of its vaccine drive and the shortfall of promised vaccine deliveries, especially by AstraZeneca.

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