New measures, new reports and highlights: an update on the latest developments in the Covid-19 pandemic around the world.
The situation in France
The average number of positive Covid-19 cases continues to rise while hospitalizations are only dropping moderately, according to figures released by health authorities on Monday. The number of new cases recorded on Monday is 24,179, against 18,853 seven days earlier, according to Public Health France. The figure published on Monday is generally low compared to other days of the week, as it reflects the closure of laboratories and pharmacies on Sunday.
The seven-day average, which smooths out the daily jolts, amounts to 89,763 cases, against 65,882 cases on average last Monday and 52,715 the previous one. At the same time, the number of Covid patients in critical care, a highly scrutinized indicator, continues to decrease, with 1,632 people in intensive care units, compared to 1,642 the day before and 1,826 last Monday.
Hospitals are welcoming a total of 20,706 Covid patients (including 1,401 new patients), compared to 20,925 patients on March 14, thus marking a slowdown in the drop in the number of people hospitalized. In France as elsewhere in Europe, the fifth wave of Covid-19 does not end: what worries now are hospitalizations, which are no longer falling, reviving criticism of a premature lifting of measures by the government.
More worryingly, the number of new hospital admissions has leveled off. “For two days, the number of hospitalizations has not fallen,” noted the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, in Le Parisien on Monday. In the past 24 hours, 162 deaths have been recorded, while 141,085 people have died since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago in hospitals, retirement homes or other medico-social establishments due to of infection with Covid-19.
On the vaccination side, 54.23 million people in total have received at least one injection (80.4% of the total population), according to the General Directorate of Health, and 53.31 million have a complete vaccination schedule (79.1 %).
China confines a city of 9 million people
Chinese authorities on Tuesday decreed the confinement of a city of 9 million inhabitants, as China faces its worst epidemic outbreak since 2020, which is straining its zero Covid strategy. The industrial city of Shenyang (north-east), where many factories are located, including that of the German car manufacturer BMW, now confines its inhabitants to their residences. The city is the capital of Liaoning province, bordering that of Jilin, which is by far the epicenter of this current epidemic wave, due to the Omicron variant.
The Chinese Ministry of Health announced Tuesday 4,770 new positive cases nationwide. Very low figures in comparison with other countries in the world, but high for China and its zero Covid strategy. Thanks to confinements, quarantines on arrival in the territory or even tracing of movements, the country has stemmed the epidemic for two years, allowing the Chinese to live an almost normal life. But this strategy, which has saved human lives (officially 4,638 dead since the start of the pandemic), weighs on the economy of the Asian giant. President Xi Jinping called last week to “minimize” the impact of the outbreak on the economy, while ruling out any significant easing of the zero Covid strategy.
In Shanghai, where the number of new positive cases is however several hundred per day, the authorities are thus opting for very targeted confinements of buildings, instead of a general confinement of the whole city. In Jilin, the most affected province, authorities announced on Monday that 10,000 doses of Pfizer’s anti-Covid drug had arrived. This is believed to be the first time Paxlovid has been used in China. Since last week, the province has imposed travel restrictions. The inhabitants cannot leave their commune and several cities confine the population to their homes. The technological metropolis of Shenzhen (south), 17.5 million inhabitants, announced Monday a gradual lifting of its strict confinement, after having already relaxed restrictions to minimize the impact on factories and its port. China’s health ministry had reported on Friday that just 51% of over-80s in mainland China had received at least two doses of the vaccine. A source of concern, because in the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong (south), a major epidemic outbreak is overwhelming hospitals and decimating the elderly.
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