Home » Covid Live: Dutch PM To Announce Partial Lockdown; Czech Cases Exceed 10,000 For Third Day In A Week

Covid Live: Dutch PM To Announce Partial Lockdown; Czech Cases Exceed 10,000 For Third Day In A Week

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10:07

Germany to reintroduce free Covid tests from tomorrow

A very quick snap from Reuters here. Germany’s acting health minister Jens Spahn has made two announcements this morning at a news conference.

  • Germany will reintroduce free Covid-19 tests from Saturday.
  • Doctors will get higher reimbursements for administering Covid-19 vaccinations from Tuesday.

09:17

Caretaker PM Mark Rutte expected to introduce partial lockdown in Netherlands this evening

In the Netherlands, the caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet will take a final decision on new Covid restrictions during a meeting today, and he will announce the measures during a televised news conference scheduled for 1800 GMT.

It is expected that bars and restaurants will be ordered to close early, and sporting events will be held without audiences under a three-week partial lockdown.

The move would mark a drastic turn in policy for the Dutch government, which until last month thought a relatively high vaccination rate would mean it could further ease measures towards the end of the year.

People with and without face masks walk on the street in Amsterdam while shopping in Netherlands. Photograph: Eva Plevier/Reuters

It is unclear whether the government will adopt a more politically sensitive recommendation by its leading pandemic advisory panel to limit access to public places to people who have been fully vaccinated or have had Covid-19 after the lockdown period.

Bart Meijer sums up the situation in the Netherlands for Reuters, where new coronavirus infections in the country of 17.5 million have increased rapidly after social distancing measures were dropped in late September and hit a record of about 16,300 in 24 hours on Thursday.

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08:43

Russia’s case and death numbers remain at similar levels to yesterday, as authorities wait to see whether the enforced week’s holiday last week has made any impact on the chain of transmission within the country. In the last 24 hours there were 40,123 new cases and 1,235 deaths.

In another development, the Moscow Times reports that there has been a data breach of information on people who purchased fake vaccination QR codes. They write:

A database of Russians who purchased fake coronavirus vaccine certificates has leaked online, the Kommersant business daily reported Friday, with experts warning that the buyers are now at risk of both blackmail and jail time.

With vaccine scepticism rampant, many Russians have turned to the black market to purchase counterfeit QR code passes that prove one’s vaccination or negative Covid-19 status. Nearly every Russian region now requires the passes in order to access public areas and events amid a record-breaking fourth wave of the pandemic.

The issue gained further urgency as lawmakers announced plans Thursday to mandate the QR codes nationwide and the Kremlin warned that these and other restrictions will only be lifted after the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

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08:19

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which is selling its Covid vaccine at cost price, said it had fallen into a loss in the third quarter.

The company posted a net loss of $1.65bn (£1.23bn) compared with a profit after tax of about $650m (£486m) in the third quarter last year.

Agence France-Presse reports that AstraZeneca said it experienced higher costs in the latest July-September period after its takeover of the US biotech company Alexion, as well as increased research and development expenses across multiple programmes, including its Covid treatments.

The group added that revenue from its Covid vaccine totalled $2.22bn in the year to date after the delivery of about 580m doses worldwide.

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08:05

Czech Republic reports more than 10,000 new daily cases for third time this week

A quick snap from Reuters that the Czech Republic reported 10,395 new Covid-19 cases for 11 November, surpassing 10,000 for the third time this week, Health Ministry data showed on Friday.

The number of patients hospitalised with the illness dropped slightly to 3,557, with 542 in serious condition, in the country of 10.7 million.

07:50

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University College of Medicine and Health, has told Associated Press that in Western Europe the large pool of unvaccinated people combined with a widespread post-lockdown resumption of socializing and a slight decline in immunity for people who got their shots months ago is driving up the pace of infections.

Many European countries now use Covid passes — proof of full vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test result — to access venues like bars and restaurants. Pankhania warned that the passes can give a false sense of security since fully vaccinated people can still get infected — though their chances of dying or getting seriously sick are dramatically lower.

Thanks largely to vaccination, hospitals in Western Europe are not under the same pressure they were earlier in the pandemic, but many are still straining to handle rising numbers of Covid patients while also attempting to clear backlogs of tests and surgeries with exhausted or sick staff.

Mike Corder for Associated Press writes that the question now is if countries can tamp down this latest upswing without resorting to stringent shutdowns that devastated economies, disrupted education and weighed on mental health. Experts say probably — but authorities can’t avoid all restrictions and must boost vaccination rates.

“I think the era of locking people up in their homes is over because we now have tools to control Covid — the testing, vaccines and therapeutics,” said Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “So I hope people will do the things they have to do, like put on a mask.”

Spain, once one of Europe’s hardest hit nations, perhaps offers an example of how the risks can be managed.

It has vaccinated 80% of its population, and while face masks are no longer mandatory outdoors, many people still wear them.

While infections have ticked up slightly recently, Rafael Bengoa, one of Spain’s leading public health experts, said that given the high vaccination rate, “the virus won’t be able to dominate us again.”

Pankhania says that no single measure will control the pandemic. “To really control it, it has to be multi-layered … avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated places, be immunized, wear your mask,” he said.

07:19

Here’s the map of the latest caseloads across Europe. You can see that what started as a new wave of Covid in the east of the continent has now spread to a darker band that runs through Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, with Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovakia now at the highest case level.

07:12

Hello, it is Martin Belam here in London, taking over from Samantha Lock in Sydney. Just a little bit more on the situation in the Netherlands, which looks set to announce a three-week partial lockdown at a televised press conference tonight. The DutchNews.nl website has this further detail this morning:

A three-week partial lockdown is more than recommended by government health advisors, but is being seen as a trade off against other advice. The government is not planning to close cinemas and theatres – which had been suggested by the Outbreak Management Team.

Sports matches can go ahead but without supporters, NOS said. This means Tuesday evening’s World Cup qualification game between the Netherlands and Norway would take place in an empty stadium.

In the meantime, the cabinet wants to anchor other measures – such as the return of social distancing – in law, NOS said. It will take one or two weeks to get that through both houses of parliament.

06:52

Chinese port city battles growing Covid cluster

The Chinese port city of Dalian has reported China’s highest daily Covid count as the nation continues to battle the most recent outbreak since mid-October.

The growing Covid-19 cluster has spurred the northeastern port city to limit outbound travel, cut offline school classes and close a few cultural venues after being told by national authorities to contain the outbreak more quickly, Reuters reports.

Dalian reported 52 locally transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms on Thursday, more than doubling from 21 cases a day earlier, official data showed on Friday.

A total of 1,149 local cases were found in China between 17 October and 11 November. While the number is tiny compared with many outbreaks outside the country, local authorities have exerted resources to put out the flare-up with Beijing not expected to change its zero-tolerance policy any time soon.

“Various measures should be quickened and their quality should be improved, in order to get the outbreak under control in a shorter amount of time and to minimise the outbreak’s impact on manufacturing and life of the general public,” the National Health Commission said on Thursday, citing a meeting chaired by the commission’s director in Dalian.

06:37

The Netherlands considers imposing partial lockdown

The Dutch government is considering whether to impose a partial lockdown to curb a surge in Covid infections.

The Netherlands reported another 16,364 new cases and 26 deaths on Thursday, jumping to the highest level since the start of the pandemic. The surge follows the lifting of social distancing measures in late September.

The government’s pandemic advisory panel has recommended imposing a partial lockdown, shutting down theatres and cinemas, scrapping large events and closing cafes and restaurants earlier, broadcaster NOS reported. Schools would however remain open.

Hospitals in the southern province of Limburg — the hardest-hit Dutch region — sounded the alarm earlier this week in a letter to the health ministry, saying: “We are heading straight for a healthcare blockage and the entire system is grinding to a standstill.”

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet will discuss the advice during an emergency meeting on Thursday night, and will announce its decisions during a televised press conference scheduled for Friday, Reuters reports.

06:07

Welcome back to our live Covid coverage.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the top headlines from around the world for the next few hours.

For the past few weeks, many European countries have been eyeing Covid case numbers with mounting trepidation and concerns over whether to reinstate lockdowns.

Austria and the Netherlands may be the first to do so in western Europe with the former set to place millions of people not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in lockdown in a matter of days as infections soar to record highs and intensive care units face an increasing strain.

The country’s worst-affected province of Upper Austria plans to introduce a lockdown for the unvaccinated from Monday next week

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said: “I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering. For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated.”

A summary of recent developments:

  • The Netherlands recorded more than 16,364 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Dutch health experts have called on the government to impose a partial lockdown to fight the increase in cases.
  • Germany’s chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz has pushed ahead with a plan to phase out a state of national emergency by the end of the month, despite the country recording a record-high number of 50,196 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday.
  • Australia passes the 90% first dose vaccination milestone for those aged 16 and over.
  • Brazil reports 188 Covid deaths in past 24 hours and 15,300 new cases of the coronavirus.
  • Sweden has seen a sharp decline in Covid testing this month after its health agency said vaccinated Swedes no longer need to get tested, even if they have symptoms.
  • Russia reported 1,237 Covid deaths, close to a record one-day toll recorded the previous day, amid a nationwide surge in cases. Authorities said they are preparing new restrictions.
  • Protests continue in Zagreb, Croatia, for the fourth day against obligatory certificates for the public sector as the country’s Covid-19 cases hit a record high.
  • The UK reported another 42,408 Covid cases and a further 195 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
  • Morgues are filling up in Romania and Bulgaria as the countries record the EU’s highest daily death rates from Covid-19, after superstition, misinformation and entrenched mistrust in governments and institutions combined to leave them the least vaccinated countries in the bloc.
  • EU drug regulator lists rare spinal condition as side-effect of Johnson & Johnson Covid shot. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was also assessing reports of a rare blood condition known as capillary leak syndrome (CLS) following inoculation with Moderna’s vaccine.
  • Moderna has offered to sell its vaccines to the African Union at $7 a shot, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control said.
  • Covaxin, the first Covid-19 vaccine developed in India, is “highly efficacious” and presents no safety concerns, according to a recent study published in the Lancet.
  • Austria saw a record high of daily infections as intensive-care units are increasingly strained. About 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the lowest rate of any western European country apart from Liechtenstein.
  • The UK government’s vaccine mandate for care home workers came into effect as about 50,000 care home staff have not been fully vaccinated in England and will not be allowed to work from Thursday.
  • Israel holds world’s first “war game drill” in case of an outbreak of a new lethal variant of Covid-19. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and senior aides holed up in a nuclear command bunker to simulate an outbreak, describing such an eventuality as “the next war”.

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