French MP warns of situation in Ile-de-France - Valérie Pécresse, president of the Republicans for the Ile-de-France regional council has warned on French television this morning that the "third wave of Covid will be very violent and will claim more lives". Pécresse went on to say that the region is on “borrowed time with the British variant of Covid being present in a majority of cases, a variant which is, not only more contagious, but also more deadly”. The MP went on to say that “measures must be taken, and the vaccination campaign stepped up”.
Meanwhile Bruno Riou, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine and medical director of the AP-HP has also warned this morning on French radio that each week which passes without a lockdown is a week "lost for everyone" adding that "The situation is not yet out of control, but it soon will be”. He goes on to say that France is trying to maintain a very precarious balance between Covid patients and non-Covid patients. According to Bruno Riou, "mortality has dropped a little but it remains very heavy" for Covid patients in intensive care. He specifies that "one in four will not come out of intensive care". The AP-HP crisis medical director is especially worried about the evolution of the epidemic in the coming weeks: "The epidemic, with the British variant, is progressing at full speed especially on 'young people' from 20 to 60 years old ". According to Bruno Riou, "in the absence of an important decision he regrets that firm lockdown has not been put in place and deplores the fact that "the vaccination will only have effects in several months".
Vaccination in pharmacies – The vaccination campaign against Covid has kicked of today in French pharmacies. It would appear that there is some confusion following conflicting reports this morning from French media outlets reporting that the campaign would be for “those over 50 with an underlying health condition and those over 75”. However, for the region Riviera Radio has contacted several pharmacies in Nice and it would appear that the “AstraZeneca vaccine is open to all age groups for those who are already registered” at the following address https://vaccincovid19.nice.fr/VC19/Formulaire
AstraZeneca what do we know? - France has maintained the use of the AstraZeneca vaccination against Covid with Health Minister Olivier Véran saying in a press conference last week that there is "no reason to suspend" the injections of the AstraZeneca vaccine in France adding that at this stage "the benefit of vaccination is considered greater than the risk”.
There was new controversy around the AstraZeneca vaccine over the weekend as the Netherlands and Ireland announced on Sunday March 14th their decision to suspend vaccination against Covid-19 with this product developed in the United Kingdom with Oxford University. In addition, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, have taken similar decisions in recent days. The question is a possible link with the formation of blood clots in some patients?
It was Denmark that started the ball rolling, announcing Thursday morning that it was going to suspend the use of the vaccine until further notice, as a precaution. The Danish health agency said that the country had recorded a death of a person who had received the vaccine, as well as other serious cases. The Danish suspension was quickly followed by Iceland and then Norway. Finally, on Sunday March 14, Ireland and the Netherlands announced a similar decision.
These decisions come a few days after the partial suspension - on a specific batch, and not on all AstraZeneca vaccines - decided in Austria after the death of a 49-year-old nurse who succumbed to "serious bleeding disorders" a few days after receiving it. Four other European countries, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Luxembourg, had immediately suspended vaccinations with doses from this batch, delivered to 17 countries and which included one million vaccines. But a preliminary investigation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stressed on Wednesday that there was no link between AstraZeneca's vaccine and the death in Austria.
On Thursday, Italy suspended another batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, reports the Ansa news agency. This decision follows the suspicious deaths in Sicily of a soldier after a cardiac arrest and of a police officer, a few days after their vaccination with this batch. But the exact causes of these two deaths and their possible links with the product remain to be established.
According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), only 22 cases of thrombosis had been reported as of Tuesday for more than three million people vaccinated in its area (European Union, Norway and Iceland). The agency clarified that nothing to date demonstrates a risk of a higher blood clotting in people vaccinated against Covid-19. "The information available to date indicates that the number of thromboembolisms in vaccinated people is not greater than that observed in the entire population," assured the EMA in a statement sent to AFP.
In a statement released on Sunday March 14th, AstraZeneca said that a "careful review of all available safety data on more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the UK" with its vaccine "has provided no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia in any particular age group, gender, lot or country”.
In other news
Arrests - Several individuals have been arrested on Rue Bavastro in Nice in the port district. The arrests were made on Sunday afternoon at around 4pm after police through CCTV footage spotted a group of people heading towards the Cigalusa square on Rue Barla armed with broomsticks and damaging vehicles and scooters along the way. It’s believed the group was gathering at the spot where last Thursday a 16-year-old was stabbed suffering serious injuries.
Panzani offers packs of pasta to students - The pasta brand Panzani has offered 40,000 packages of pasta to associations helping students in need in Paris and Marseille. The operation takes place today in the Ile-de-France and Marseille. Several associations helping students will receive donations of pasta, 10 tons, or the equivalent of 200,000 meals.
Deep Time project - On Sunday fifteen volunteers in France began an experiment as part of a study into "the adaptability of the human being in a hostile environment". One year after the first lockdown fifteen women and men aged 27 to 50 will spend forty days in a cave in Ariège south western France. The Deep Time project kicked off at 8pm. The volunteers without a watch, telephone or natural light, will also have to get used to the twelve degrees and 95% humidity of the cave, generate their electricity by a pedal boat system and draw the water they need at a depth of 45 meters. They will be equipped with sensors allowing a dozen scientists to follow them from the surface.
Lions – A new study of nearly 1,000 lions in Zimbabwe has found that lions roar more frequently when they are near to water, when it's humid, and on calm windless nights. The data gained from custom-built collars is helping scientists better understand the animals' habits, and the threats they face. The study using new technology developed by researchers from Oxford University was undertaken in a privately-owned wildlife sanctuary in the south-west of the country that is home to around 500 lions. The researchers mapped the locations and climatic conditions behind 990 roars -- and found water and lack of wind were among factors that played a big role.