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Europe learns to live with coronavirus despite rising cases



Europe learns to live with coronavirus despite rising cases

PARIS – In the early days of the pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron called on the French to wage a “war” against coronavirus. Today, his message is to “learn to live with the virus.”

From full-scale conflict to containment of the Cold War, France and much of the rest of Europe have made the choice to coexist as infection continues to grow, summer turns into a perilous fall and possibility of a second wave haunts the continent.

Having abandoned hopes of eradicating the virus or developing a vaccine within weeks, Europeans have largely returned to work and school, leading lives as normal as possible amid the ongoing pandemic that has already begun. killed nearly 215,000 people in Europe

This approach is in stark contrast to the United States, where restrictions to defend against the virus have caused political division and where many regions have moved forward, reopening schools, shops and restaurants with no basic protocols. The result was almost as many deaths as in Europe, albeit among a much smaller population.

Europeans, for the most part, are leveraging hard-won lessons from the early phase of the pandemic: the need to wear masks and practice social distancing, the importance of testing and tracking, and the critical benefits of flexible local responses. All of these measures, tightened or loosened as necessary, are designed to stave off the national constraints that paralyzed the continent and crippled the economy earlier this year.

“There is no way to stop the virus,” said Emmanuel André, a leading virologist in Belgium and a former spokesman for the government’s Covid-19 task force. “It’s about maintaining balance. And we only have a few tools for that. “

He added: “People are tired. They don’t want to fight anymore. “

Combat language gave way to more measured assurances.

“We are living with a virus,” said Roberto Speranza, Italy’s health minister. the first country in Europe to impose national isolation… In an interview with La Stampa, Mr Speranza said that while “there is no zero infection rate,” Italy is now much better equipped to deal with the surge in infections.

“There will be no re-isolation,” Speranza said.

Nevertheless, risks remain.

The number of new infections has skyrocketed in recent weeks, especially in France and in Spain… More than 10,000 cases were reported in France last week in one day. This jump is not surprising, since the total number of tests being performed – now about a million per week – is constantly growing and is now more than 10 times what it was in the spring.

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The death rate of about 30 people a day is a small fraction of what was at its peak, when hundreds, and sometimes more than 1000 people died every day in France. This is because those infected now tend to be younger and health officials have learned to better treat Covid-19, said William Dub, an epidemiologist and former French director of national health.

“The virus is still circulating freely, we have little control over the infection chain, and people at high risk – elderly, obese, diabetics – will inevitably suffer,” said Mr Dab.

In Germany, young people are also too high among the rising infections.

While the German health authorities testing over a million people a weekdebate has begun over the importance of infection rates in obtaining a snapshot of a pandemic.

In early September, only 5 percent of confirmed cases were hospitalized, according to the country’s health authorities. At the height of the pandemic in April, up to 22 percent of those infected were hospitalized.

Hendrik Strick, head of the virology department at a research hospital in Bonn, Germany, warned that a pandemic should be judged not only by the number of infected, but by deaths and hospitalizations.

“We have reached a point where the number of infections no longer matters,” said Mr Strick.

Most of Europe was unprepared for the arrival of coronavirus, without masks, test kits and other basic equipment. Even countries that did better than others, such as Germany, recorded much higher death tolls than Asian countries that were much closer to the source of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, but reacted faster.

National restrictions helped bring the pandemic under control across Europe. But infection rates started growing again over the summer after countries opened up and people, especially young people, resumed communication, often without adhering to the principles of social distancing.

Despite the rise in infections, Europeans have returned to work and school this month, creating more opportunities for the virus to spread.

“We control the infection chains better than we did in March or April, when we were completely powerless,” said Mr Dub, former French director of national health. “The challenge now for the government is to find a balance between reviving the economy and protecting human health.”

“And it’s a tricky balance,” added Mr Dub. “They want to reassure people to get back to work, but at the same time, we need to make them worry so they continue to take preventive measures.”

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Among these measures, masks are now widely available across Europe, and governments largely agree on the need to wear them. At the beginning of this year, faced with a shortage, the French government discouraged people from wearing masks, saying they did not protect those who wear them and could even cause harm.

Wearing a face mask has become part of the life of Europeans, most of whom, in March last year, were still suspicious and incomprehensible of masked tourists from Asia, where the practice has been widespread for the past two decades.

Instead of applying national restrictions without regard to regional differences, authorities – even in a very centralized nation like France – began to respond more quickly to local “hot spots” with specific measures.

On Monday, for example, Bordeaux officials announced that, faced with rising infections, they would limit private gatherings to 10 people, limit visits to nursing homes and ban standing in bars.

In Germany, while the new school year kicked off with compulsory physical activity across the country, authorities have warned that traditional events like carnival or Christmas markets may have to be scaled back or even canceled. Bundesliga football matches will be played without fans until at least the end of October.

In Britain where to wear masks not particularly common or strictly enforced, authorities have tightened rules for family gatherings in Birmingham, where the number of cases of infection is increasing. In Belgium, people can limit their social activity to six people.

In Italy, the government has blocked villages, hospitals and even migrant shelters to contain new clusters. Antonio Miglietta, an epidemiologist who conducted contact tracing in a quarantined building in Rome in June, said months of fighting the virus helped officials extinguish outbreaks before they spun out of control, as they did in northern Italy this year.

“We did it better,” he said.

Governments still need to improve in other things.

At the peak of the epidemic in France, as in many other European countries, there was a desperate shortage of test kits that many sick people could not get tested.

Today, although France runs a million tests a week, widespread testing has led to delays in appointments and results – up to a week in Paris. People can now get tested regardless of their symptoms or their history of exposure, and officials have not established priority tests that would speed up results for people at greatest risk to themselves and others.

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“We could have a more targeted testing policy that would probably be more helpful in fighting the virus than what we are doing now,” said Lionel Barran, president of the Union of Young Medical Biologists, adding that the French government should limit tests for people with a prescription and participate in targeted screening campaigns to combat clustering.

Experts said French health officials should also significantly improve contact tracing efforts, which have proven critical in containing the spread of the virus in Asian countries.

After two months of isolation ended in May, the French social security system put in place a manual contact tracing system to track infected people and their contacts. But a system that relies heavily on the skills and experience of contact trackers has produced mixed results.

At the start of the campaign, each infected person gave the contact tracer an average of 2.4 other names, most likely family members. The campaign has steadily improved as the number of names rose to more than five in July, according to data recent report from French health authorities

But since then, the average has gradually dropped to less than three contacts per person, while the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has increased tenfold, rising from a seven-day average of about 800 new cases per day in the middle. -July averaging around 8,000 per day now, according to figures compiled by The New York Times

At the height of the epidemic, most people in France were extremely critical of the government’s response to the epidemic. But polls show that the majority now believe that the government will handle the second possible wave better than the first.

Jérôme Carriere, a police officer who traveled to Paris from his home in Metz in northern France, said it was a good sign that most people are now wearing masks.

“At the beginning, like all French people, we were shocked and worried,” said Mr. Carriere, 55, adding that two of the family’s oldest friends had died of Covid-19. “And then we adjusted and returned to our normal life.”

The report was presented by Constant Meje and Antonella Francini from Paris, Matt Apuzzo from Brussels, Gaia Pianigiani and Emma Bubola from Rome, and Christopher F. Schueze from Berlin.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.



Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia



A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization



“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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