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Europe learns to live with coronavirus despite rising cases

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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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Prominent colonel criticizes Russian invasion of Ukraine on Russian state television: ‘We must be prepared to lose this war’

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José Milhazes and Nuno Rogueiro reviewed Tuesday an interview with Mikhail Khodaryonok, “the most respected colonel,” a Russian military analyst and anti-aircraft missile specialist. According to SIC observers, the colonel warned Russia and said that Ukraine was capable of arming one million people.

“He said: “We, Russia, are not in a position to resist or win over a million well-armed people. (…) They are more motivated than ever, well prepared and trained,” Nuno Rogueiro translated.

Mikhail Khodarenok also stated on a Russian state television program that Russia could lose the war and that the world is against the Putin regime.

However, Jose Milhazes believes that the statements of the famous Russian colonel “will not change the mentality of Russians if coffins do not start appearing in Russia en masse.”

As for the fate of the Azovstal soldiers evacuated on Monday from a compound in Mariupol and taken to Russian-controlled areas, Milkhazes said that Russia would try to “roll back the process” and “detain the Ukrainian military.” The SIC commentator echoed the Kremlin spokesman’s claim that international laws would be respected and warned: “There is a law in Russia that states that domestic laws take precedence over international ones.”

In turn, Nuno Rogueiro does not believe that Russia can lightly decide to violate the agreement. “Russia will not have much interest in assuaging a grudge and losing something that it can still gain in the process.” He added that, according to his own information, Russia “was solemnly warned” by the United States that it would “suffer hitherto unimaginable consequences” if it attacked soldiers at Azovstal.

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After the surrender at Azovstal, the fate of Ukrainian soldiers is unclear – Obozrevatel

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The withdrawal of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who had been at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol since the beginning of the war raised the question: what was the fate of those who surrendered? Ukraine has announced that a prisoner exchange will take place, while Russia is showing signs that the men, who remained for months at the factory in Russian-controlled territory, have another destination.

On the day of the surrender, the Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine confirmed the withdrawal of 53 soldiers who needed medical attention and another 211 soldiers who were inside the Azovstal steel plant. All were transported to regions controlled by the troops of Vladimir Putin.

Although a Ukrainian official said the aim is to exchange these soldiers for Russian prisoners of war, the Kremlin’s position is still unclear, especially after one of the deputies involved in the peace talks with Kyiv came to defend the death penalty for soldiers withdrawn from Azovstal. .

Give up? In total, 264 soldiers were withdrawn from Azovstal. The army said it had “completed” the defense of the plant

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If Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured that the soldiers would be treated “in accordance with international standards,” then so be it. that Russia should “think well” about imposing capital punishment on the members of the Azov battalion, who have now been withdrawn from the Azovstal metallurgical plant.

“They do not deserve to live after the heinous crimes against humanity that they have committed and that are constantly being committed against our prisoners,” he said, quoted by Reuters.

Already on Tuesday it became known that on May 26 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation will decide on the recognition of the Azov battalion as a terrorist organization. According to the Interfax news agency, cited by the BBC, it will be Russian justice that will “judge the nationalist paramilitary association Azov, deciding whether it is a” terrorist organization “.

According to the Russian news agency RIA, Russian MP Sultan Khamzaev also said that “all nationalists should be convicted for the grave crimes they have committed” and sentenced to “life imprisonment.”

Azov. Neo-Nazis or Russian propaganda? History and ideology of the battalion that survived in Mariupol

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Putin will make military decisions at the level of colonel or brigade | Russia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will be so involved in the war in Ukraine that he will make military decisions, which are usually the responsibility of colonels or brigadier generals, usually leading teams of 700 to 900 troops, Western military sources cited by the British press office said. Click.

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