Japanese region seeks new virus emergency as Olympics near

coronavirus

Japan’s third most populated region will on Tuesday ask the central government to impose a state of emergency over the coronavirus as infections rise just three months before the country hosts the Olympics.

Osaka prefecture only lifted a state of emergency two months ago and restrictions are expected to be tougher this time, possibly involving store and shopping mall closures.

That would still fall short of the harsh lockdowns seen in many other parts of the world however.

Tokyo and several other areas are expected to follow suit, hoping to avoid the crisis now facing Osaka’s healthcare system, where beds for coronavirus patients in severe condition have run out.

Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said he had already told the minister overseeing the coronavirus response, Yasutoshi Nishimura, that a state of emergency was needed as measures taken so far “are not enough”.

A formal request is expected to come later today, with official approval from the government following in the evening.

“I believe now is the time to take strong measures for a short period of time,” Yoshimura told reporters.

“The flow of people and the fast pace of the variant strains are causing surges,” he warned, calling for the closure of shopping malls, amusement parks and department stores.

He also urged people to move to teleworking, warning that otherwise “we won’t be able to curb the flow of people”.

Osaka is already under virus restrictions that mostly call for restaurants and bars to close by 8pm and urge residents to avoid unnecessary outings.

Those measures prompted the region to bar the Olympic torch relay from public roads, with the flame instead being carried by torchbearers on a closed track inside a park without spectators.

Nishimura earlier acknowledged the “extremely tough situation” in Osaka, saying the government was coordinating with authorities there “with a strong sense of crisis”.

According to local media, Tokyo also plans to request the government declare a state of emergency this week.

And at least two regions neighbouring Osaka are reportedly planning on requesting the measure.

The surge in cases comes with just over three months until the virus-postponed Tokyo Olympics, which organisers insist can be held safely.

Japan declared a virus state of emergency in early January for several areas, lifting it on March 1 in Osaka and three weeks later in Tokyo.

But infections have ticked back up, driven by more infectious variants, and vaccinations are moving slowly.

Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved and so far it is being given only to medical workers and the elderly.

Just 25 percent of 4.8 million healthcare workers and slightly more than 13,000 elderly people have so far received a first vaccine dose.

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UK researchers will deliberately reinfect people with COVID-19 in new ‘challenge study’

Researchers in the U.K. are looking for volunteers who have already had COVID-19 for a “challenge study” that will deliberately reexpose them to the novel coronavirus.

The goal of the study is to understand what immune response is needed to protect against reinfection with COVID-19, according to a statement from the University of Oxford, which has received approval to conduct the trial.

“If we could understand, in this really careful controlled way, exactly what kind of immune response is needed for protection [against reinfection], then we will be able to look at people who have natural infection and say whether or not they’re protected” against another infection, study chief investigator Dr. Helen McShane, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said in a video about the study

In a challenge study, people who are at low risk of serious outcomes are intentionally exposed to a pathogen in a controlled lab environment. Earlier this year, other researchers in the U.K. began challenge studies in people who hadn’t been infected with COVID-19, deliberately exposing them to very small doses of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. 

For the new study, the researchers are recruiting healthy people ages 18 to 30 who were infected with COVID-19 at least three months prior to entering the study and have antibodies against the novel coronavirus, according to The Guardian.

The study will have two phases. The first phase, which will include 24 volunteers, aims to determine the lowest dose of SARS-CoV-2 that can cause an infection while producing little or no symptoms in the volunteers. 

“We start with a really, really small amount of the virus … and we check that that’s safe,” and then increase the dose if necessary (if it’s too low to cause an infection in any of the volunteers), McShane said in the video. 

“Our target is to have 50% of our subjects infected but with no, or only very mild, disease,” McShane told The Guardian.

The second phase will involve another 10 to 40 participants who will receive the dose determined in the first phase. The researchers hope to learn what levels of antibodies, T cells and other immune system components protect against reinfection.

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After being exposed to the virus, all of the participants will be quarantined for 17 days and  monitored closely. They will undergo numerous tests, including CT scans of their lungs and MRIs of their hearts, the researchers said.

Any participants who develop symptoms of COVID-19 will be treated with Regeneron’s monoclonal antibodies, which have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations from COVID-19.

The participants will be followed for at least eight months after they recover from their second infection. Each participant will receive nearly $7,000 (£5,000) for being included in the study, The Guardian reported.

The first phase of the study is expected to start this month, and the second phase is expected to begin in the summer, the researchers said.

Originally published on Live Science.   

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Shocking New Facts Reveal why You Should ALWAYS Sleep at Work

It’s time to put the myth to sleep. The Spanish didn’t really invent siestas as we know them, they just perfected the practice. The word siesta has its origins from the Latin word sexta. In days gone past, the Romans stopped to eat and rest in the sixth hour of the day.

The Spanish have historically had peculiar working hours, with time, they managed to slot in a couple of hours to nap in their daily routines. Their culture supports a practice called presenteeism, which translates to spending more work hours to give the impression of being busy and committed to the workplace. Traditionally, most companies believed that spending more hours at work meant improved productivity. Whilst this is not necessarily always the case, the introduction of afternoon siestas between 2-5pm did allow them to rejuvenate and carry on with their daily activities.

Power Naps

For the siesta to survive in the new age, many things need to be taken into consideration. The sleeping culture of big cities needs to be revised in order to ensure compatibility with the workforce.

There have already been a few initiatives among the Spanish populace to save siesta sessions. Last year sleep pods were tried out in Madrid’s Atocha train station to offer a temporary lunch break relief for tired office work.

An app known as SiestAPP has also been developed to help users refresh and revitalize. The app works by letting users grab some precious 40 winks and then waking them up just in time to get back to work.

In the New Age, people are paid by the Hour, Napping in the Afternoon may thus not make sense for most employers

Downtime

When we take breaks and/or sleep, the brain engages in mundane but important activities. Scientists have always suspected that when one is not actively engaged in a learning experience, the brain strives to amalgamate new data. It is during this time that memory gets stored up and the brain gets to subconsciously rehearse new skills by etching them into the brain tissue.

Most students can give testimony to the fact that after a late night out studying, they were able to recall most of the things learnt in the morning after a good night of sleep. Musicians practicing instruments also experience this same phenomenon. In essence, a good sleep session is an essential component of memory.

Psychology

Psychologists have established that taking breaks and vacations can have real advantages for most people. A vacation takes the mind out of focus on particular issues and helps it concentrate on new things.

Taking a quick shower on a hot day can have the same benefits as a good sleep session. By distracting the mind and giving it a new pre-occupation, different parts of the brain responsible for creativity and memory are triggered. This can have a great benefit in how we are able to execute work much more efficiently afterward.

Siestas allow the brain to switch off for a while and take inventory of the day’s happenings whilst preparing us for future functionality with improved effectiveness

Hobbits

In Tolkien’s Middle Earth magnum opus, the Hobbits are known to partake in two breakfasts, the first and the second. The same way pre-industrial Europe was known to have a first and second sleep session typically divided by an hour of crepuscular activity. Numerous studies have shown that taking naps helps the brain sharpen concentration and improve productivity at workplaces.

A good downtime session can significantly help improve the attention span of people

While there are a couple of forward-thinking companies in the US that allow workers to take naps at the office, most still don’t cater for such needs. A good alternative for those unable to take naps at the office space because of their bosses would be to spend some time outdoors exploring. By taking our minds off work and school for short periods, we’re able to prepare the brain for intensive information processing later in the day.

A good downtime session can help improve the attention span of individuals too. Sleep and meditation are considered to be some great ways to help the mind focus on issues we deem important when we’re feeling a bit fatigued. A nap a day, keeps the productivity at an all-time high. It’s the miracle cure that seems too good to be true, yet still, it is.

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A first-time look at how COVID hit every town in New Jersey

A first-time look at how COVID hit every town in New Jersey

A new report issued by the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers University–Camden unmasks the broad, regional impact of COVID-19 upon New Jersey municipalities during two waves in 2020. The report, “Municipal Variations in COVID-19 Case Rates in New Jersey,” is posted here.

Rather than focus on county-level COVID case data, the Rutgers University–Camden research institute explores how municipalities truly fared during the pandemic. During the second wave (from June 30 through Dec. 13, 2020), for example, Hammonton in Atlantic County had much higher case rates (4,383/100K) than the nearby municipalities of Folsom (2,885/100K) and Mullica (1,353/100K), as well as higher rates than the county as a whole (3,237/100K).

Similarly, Camden City (4,445/100K) and Pennsauken (4,697/100K) had case rates much higher than their neighbors in Collingswood (2,329/100K), Haddon Heights (1,308/100K), and Haddonfield (1,768/100K). In northwest New Jersey, Union Township (4,808/100K), had much higher case rates than anywhere else in Hunterdon County (1,755/100K).

The new research report from Rutgers University–Camden offers a visualization of variations in COVID-19 rates across New Jersey municipalities and illustrates the reality that nearby municipalities can have COVID case rates that are very different from each and from average rates within their counties.

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New York grandmother receives first windpipe transplant in the US

New York grandmother receives first windpipe transplant in the US after spending six years ‘trying to catch every breath at every moment’

  • Sonia Sein, 56, underwent the first trachea transplant in the U.S. in January 
  • The procedure may even be a world-first, but this was not confirmed by UNOS
  • Sein said she spent the past six years ‘trying to catch every breath at every moment’ after being intubated during an asthma attack damaged her trachea
  • The trachea, or windpipe, is difficult to transplant due to its complex system of blood vessels and tiny hairs that are key to its function 
  • Sein is recovering and so far doing well, and breathing easily 
  • As many as half of Covid patients put on ventilators sustain trachea damage, according to one Italian study 
  • Transplants could help these patients down the road if their breathing problems due to damage from ventilators become chronic  

America’s first trachea transplant has been performed on a 56-year-old woman from the Bronx in New York City. The procedure may even be the first in the world. 

Sonia Sein said she spent the last six years ‘trying to catch every breath at every moment’ after extensive treatment for her severe asthma damaged her windpipe.

She is breathing freely again after getting an unusual transplant. In January, doctors at New York’s Mount Sinai replaced her windpipe with one taken from a donor. 

Doctors say this drastic operation could potentially help other people including COVID-19 patients left with serious windpipe damage from breathing machines and former smokers. 

‘We’ve talked for 100 years about just putting in a new windpipe,’ said University of Washington surgeon Dr Albert Merati, who had no role in the recent transplant.

But hooking up a trachea from a donor to a recipient’s blood supply is challenging and would only be considered as a last resort, experts say.

‘It is just technically extremely difficult,’ said Dr David Klassen, chief medical officer for the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, which oversees the nation’s transplant system. 

‘It’s been a very difficult thing to crack.’ 

Sonia Sein, 56, became the first person in the U.S. to receive a trachea transplant – and it may be a world first. She says she struggle to breathe every after being put on a life-saving breathing machine during a severe asthma attack in 2014 

Sein says she had spent the last six years ‘trying to catch every breath at every moment’ after extensive treatment for her severe asthma damaged her windpipe. Pictured: Sein gives a blood sample during a checkup visit at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York on Monday, March, 22, 2021.

Experts say it’s too soon to deem Sein’s transplant a total success – which UNOS said is the first of its kind in the U.S.

WHAT IS A TRACHEA AND WHY ARE TRANSPLANTS DIFFICULT?  

The trachea is a four-inch, tough tube that carries air to and from the lungs. 

But it’s much more than a cylinder. 

Also known as the windpipe, the trachea is lined with rings of cartilage – a tough but flexible tissue – that keep it soft enough to move as we breathe, but rigid enough to stay open and upright. 

It is also lined with a slimy mucosal layer and tiny hairs know as cilia. 

These features help to catch debris, viruses and bacteria and prevent them from entering the lungs. 

It is also fed blood by a complex and delicate web of blood vessels. 

The complicated features of the trachea make it difficult to keep all the components alive and working in harmony when it is transplanted from donor to recipient.  

Sein has to take powerful drugs to prevent organ rejection, but doctors hope to try to wean her off in a few years. 

Less than three months after the operation, there haven’t been complications or signs of rejection.

‘If it was going to be a failure, we would know by now. It’s quite promising,’ said Dr Alec Patterson, a transplant surgeon at Washington University in St Louis who was not involved in the operation. 

‘It’s a major step forward.’

Sein’s ordeal started in 2014 when doctors put a tube in her throat to help her breathe during a severe asthma attack. 

It saved the 56-year-old social worker’s life but damaged her trachea.

Several surgeries to reconstruct her windpipe didn’t help and left Sein in despair at constant risk of suffocation.

Until now, doctors have had few good options to treat serious trachea damage.

The windpipe is much more than a simple tube. 

‘Every breath we take has to be expertly conveyed from the tip of the nose to the last air sac in the lungs,’ Merati said.

Over the years, various methods have been used to repair or reconstruct damaged windpipes. 

Doctors can remove damaged sections, or fix or replace them with prosthetics, lab-grown tissue or self-supplied tissue from a patient’s skin and rib cartilage. 

But these techniques may not restore full function to the organ, which uses tiny hairs to move mucus around and has the perfect flexibility to expand and collapse as we breathe, swallow and cough.

Sein’s trachea transplant took 18 hours and was performed at Mount Sinai in New York in January 

And these methods are not possible in the most dire situations where a patient’s entire windpipe is damaged. Something as extreme as a transplant could be their only hope, said Dr Eric Genden, a Mount Sinai surgeon who led the team.

‘Right now, we don’t talk much about those patients because there is no option for them,’ Genden said. 

‘We’re hoping that this procedure will…help not only the patients that are teetering on disaster, but also the patients that are currently kind of deemed hopeless.’

In an 18-hour operation, a team of more than 50 specialists transplanted a donor trachea, carefully reconnecting it to a complex web of tiny blood vessels.

For the next several years, Sein (center) will have to be on intense drugs to keep her immune system from rejecting the new trachea, but her physicians Dr ERic Genden (left) and Dr Sandy Florman (right) hope to wean her off the medications

‘When we saw the organ come to life, we knew we had jumped the first hurdle,’ said Genden said.

Doctors say the procedure could help others with tracheal birth defects, untreatable airway diseases or extensive damage from ventilators.

‘This could help care for COVID-19 patients,’ Merati said. 

‘Without a doubt we are already seeing some impact’ from patients being on breathing machines.

Sein is now recovering at home and ‘is breathing wonderfully,’ Genden said.

The surgery has already allowed her to do things she couldn’t before.

‘Now I feel good,’ Sein said. 

‘I dance with my granddaughter, we chase each other around the house. I jump on my grandson. We play, we watch a movie together. I cook for them. We´re making the memories together.’

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Small cell lung cancer: Scientists identify two new approaches for therapy

Small cell lung cancer: Scientists identify two new approaches for therapy

Using samples of small cell lung tumors, a research team led by biologist Dr. Silvia von Karstedt has discovered two new ways to induce tumor cell death. One of two subsets of tumor cells can be targeted by activating ferroptosis: iron-dependent cell death caused by oxidative stress. In the second subtype, oxidative stress—and hence cell death—can also be induced in a different way. Both types of cell death must be triggered simultaneously by drugs to kill the majority of the tumor mass. The results of the study have been published in Nature Communications.

Despite many advances in treatment, a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer means a particularly poor prognosis. In Germany, up to 8000 new cases of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) are diagnosed each year. At the time of diagnosis, cancer has already found many loopholes to escape the body’s immune system. “Traditional’ cell death mechanisms, such as regulated cell death by apoptosis, are usually already inactivated at this stage. That way, tumor cells can continue to divide and spread almost unperturbed.

A high cell division rate is characteristic of small cell lung cancer, which initially promises a good response to chemotherapy. “Unfortunately, in many cases the success of chemotherapy is short-lived because tumor cells rapidly develop resistance to therapy. In addition, a tumor consists not only of one, but of several cell types—the so-called subtypes—each of which uses unique strategies to escape lethal therapy,” said von Karstedt, research group leader at the CECAD Cluster of Excellence for Aging Research, the Department of Translational Genomics at the University of Cologne and the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC). This is where her research comes in. The biologist explores which cell death mechanisms are already inactivated in cancer cells and which ones can still be targeted by therapies to kill the tumor.

The research team used patient samples taken at the time of diagnosis, thus depicting the treatment-naïve tumor. To find out which pathways of cell death are still available, the scientists compared gene activity between patient cells taken inside and outside the tumor. Signaling pathways important for traditional cell death mechanisms were already switched off inside the tumor at this early stage, before therapy. In contrast, genes important for the activation of iron-dependent cell death by oxidative damage (ferroptosis) were strongly activated in the cancer cells.

Put in simple terms, small cell lung cancer cells can be divided into two subtypes: neuroendocrine cells and non-neuroendocrine cells. In the neuroendocrine cell subtype, more genes are active which are otherwise typically found in nerve cells that produce hormones. Cells belonging to the other subtype do not have this property and are therefore grouped as non-neuroendocrine cells. “Several experiments showed that cells of the non-neuroendocrine type can be killed using buthionine sulfoximine, which induces ferroptosis. In cells belonging to the neuroendocrine subtype, we found that they protect themselves from oxidative stress—and thus cell death—by producing antioxidants. However, by adding the antioxidant inhibitor Auranofin, we were able to kill these cells as well,” explains doctoral researcher Christina Bebber, the lead author of the paper.

Regarding a possible application of these findings to the therapy of small cell lung cancer, the biologists made an important observation: When targeting just one of the two pathways—i.e., either activating ferroptosis or inhibiting antioxidant production—in a tumor consisting of cells of both subtypes, cancer cells were able to evade the lethal therapy. They did so by adjusting their gene expression to switch to the subtype that could resist the respective single pathway-targeting treatment.

“When we applied a combination therapy, we took away this route of escape. What is also special about the study is that we used drugs that have already been tested in extensive clinical trials or even approved for the treatment of other diseases,” von Karstedt explained. Buthionine sulfoximine, which triggers ferroptosis, is already in clinical trials for cancer treatment. The gold salt Auranofin, which blocks the production of protective antioxidants in cancer cells, has been in use for decades to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

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Why Morgan Freeman’s New PSA Is Raising Eyebrows

Whether he’s playing a chauffeur, a LEGO figure, a boxing coach, or God, Morgan Freeman brings an unforgettable presence – and his glorious voice – to every role he takes on. His trademark baritone vocals give an air of authority to his performances. That’s precisely why the 83-year-old actor was a natural choice to star in a new public service announcement from The Creative Coalition, in which he urges viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the 45-second clip, Freeman gently pokes fun at his public image. “I’m Morgan Freeman. I’m not a doctor, but I trust science,” he says. “And I’m told that for some reason, people trust me.” He goes on to add, “If you trust me, you’ll get the vaccine.”

Math buffs will surely appreciate Freeman mentioning the distributive property – the rule for solving equations such as a (b-c),  making the metaphor that getting the vaccine is simply people “taking care of one another.” 

The PSA ends with the Bruce Almighty star pleading, “Help make our world a safe place for us to enjoy ourselves again. Please.”

While many found the message to be a positive and inspirational humanitarian effort, not all viewers felt the same. 

Not everyone trusts Morgan Freeman's belief in science

Morgan Freeman received praise from fans who have already gotten the coronavirus vaccination or are planning to do so.

 One Twitter user wrote, “Thank you for your endorsement of the vaccine, Mr. Freeman. We trust you and your advice to all your friends and admirers to do what is in their own best interests. Your concern for others is deeply appreciated.” Another fan added, “I have my second dose of pfizer in about a week. Thank you mr freeman for being a voice of reason.” 

However, there were many critics that weren’t easily persuaded. One user tweeted, “Is Morgan Freeman then liable if I suffer any severe side-effects?” Another commented, “I like him well enough as an actor, as he’s skilled quite within his profession. I don’t trust him as medical professional or scientist. He’s not my source for medical guidance regarding experimental treatments. Sadly, many superficial people believe celebrities re anything.”

Of course, leave it to Twitter to throw in a few jokes, with a fan writing, “I just want his voice injected in me.”

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New Delhi to impose pandemic night curfew

curfew

The Indian capital on Tuesday imposed an immediate night curfew a day after the nation posted a record coronavirus surge, with financial hub Mumbai also introducing similar restrictions.

Alarm has grown since India passed more than 100,000 new cases in a single day for the first time on Monday.

New Delhi, which is home to 25 million people, and other major cities have all ordered a clampdown on public movement.

The Delhi regional government said the “sudden increase in COVID-19 cases” and “high positivity rate” meant a night curfew was needed.

The ban will be in place from 10 pm to 5 am with only essential services or people travelling to and from vaccination centres allowed on the streets.

Delhi reported 3,548 new positive cases on Monday, still below its peak of nearly 9,000 in November, when it was one of the worst-hit cities across the nation of 1.3 billion people.

The government has so far shied away from reimposing a repeat of nationwide restrictions imposed in March last year—one of the world’s toughest lockdowns—as it seeks to revive the devastated economy.

But India’s wealthiest state Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, on Sunday announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million population.

The state currently accounts for more than half of the new cases reported each day nationwide.

India, which has the world’s third-highest number of infections after the United States and Brazil, has reported almost 12.7 million cases and more than 165,000 deaths.

Single-day infections have been rising since early February when they fell to below 9,000.

The country has recorded more than 549,000 cases in the last seven days—an increase of 40 percent compared to the previous week, according to an AFP database.

Brazil recorded just under 440,000 cases and the United States reported just over 453,000, but both with a decreasing trend from the previous week.

India’s health ministry said Tuesday that more than 83 million vaccination shots have been administered as part of an ambitious drive to inoculate 300 million by the end of July.

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WHO blasts Europe’s slow vaccine rollout, as France heads for new lockdown

The new measures were met with a mix of resignation and anger in France

The WHO on Thursday slammed Europe’s “unacceptably slow” vaccine rollout and warned of a “worrying” surge in cases, as France became the latest country to impose new restrictions to combat soaring coronavirus infections.

In a sign of the devastation the virus is still causing while the world races to roll out vaccines, Brazil reported the country’s death toll had spiralled last month.

Officials said more than 66,000 people had died of COVID-19 in Brazil in March—more than twice as many fatalities as the country’s second-deadliest month of the pandemic, July 2020.

“Never in Brazilian history have we seen a single event kill so many people” in one month, said doctor Miguel Nicolelis, former pandemic response coordinator for Brazil’s impoverished northeast.

With the southern hemisphere winter approaching and the virus spreading fast, Brazil is facing “a perfect storm”, he told AFP.

The surge in Brazil has overwhelmed hospitals and forced doctors to make agonising decisions over whom to give life-saving care—prioritising those most likely to survive.

The virus has killed more than 2.8 million people worldwide since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

And though the world is looking to vaccines to end the upheaval the virus has brought, rollouts are off to a sputtering start in many countries, notably in Europe.

“Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic… however, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow,” the World Health Organization’s director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement.

‘Precious weeks of liberty’

“We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock,” he added.

The organisation said Europe’s virus situation was “more worrying than we have seen in several months” and that slow rollouts were “prolonging the pandemic”.

Five weeks ago, the number of weekly new cases in the region had dipped to under one million. But last week there were 1.6 million new cases in Europe, the WHO said.

In France alone, daily cases have doubled to around 40,000 and hospitals are overflowing in flashpoints such as Paris.

The surge forced President Emmanuel Macron to relent and reimpose nationwide restrictions he rejected in January.

“We gained precious weeks of liberty,” he said in a national address late Wednesday, but the current measures “were too limited at a time when the epidemic is accelerating”.

The limited lockdown already in place in regions, including Paris, would be extended to the whole country from Saturday night for the next four weeks, he said.

Schools will close for three or four weeks depending on age level, he added.

The measures were met with a mix of resignation and anger, despite Macron’s suggestion that France could begin envisioning a return to normalcy by mid-May.

“Lockdown, the sequel… and the end?” Le Figaro headlined its front page Thursday.

And Le Parisien said Macron was defending his strategy of “slowing without shutting down” even though “the situation has never been so dangerous or complicated”.

Travel bubble

As during the first lockdown last spring, parents are scrambling to make arrangements for another round of distance learning.

“It was absolutely necessary to close the schools, even if it will be complicated for parents, and especially young children, to manage this situation,” said Laure, a 44-year-old researcher with two young boys in Paris.

In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi extended restrictions until April 30, including restaurant and business closures.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier received the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Thursday, just two days after authorities there recommended use of the jab only for people aged 60 and over.

German officials have been at pains to shore up public confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been on a rollercoaster ride in Europe.

Several other countries, including France, Spain and Canada, have also imposed age limits on the AstraZeneca shot over the occurrence of rare but severe blood clots in younger people.

The European medicines regulator said that experts probing links between the vaccine and blood clots have found no specific risk factors, though they are investigating further.

In a setback for another vaccine maker, about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine were ruined in a factory error, The New York Times reported—a blow to the US company’s efforts to quickly boost production.

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