Sweden set for new measures, Greece's doctors strike: COVID-19 daily bulletin
Updated 01:55, 24-Feb-2021
Aden-Jay Wood


- France's Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne has said it's important that companies urge their employees to work from home in a bid to prevent another nationwide lockdown amid a surge in infections.

- Greece's doctors have gone on a day-long strike, while dozens marched in the capital Athens to protest against poor hospital conditions amid the pandemic. "There is a serious risk both for critically ill COVID-19 patients and critically ill patients with other diseases," the union of hospital doctors, OENGE, said.

- The European Commission has called on six EU countries to ease border controls they have in place to slow the spread of the virus. The Commission's justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, said it has given Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden 10 days to justify curbs he said had "gone too far."

- Sweden is to introduce a host of new national restrictions from Wednesday amid a surge in infections of the variant first discovered in the UK, the country's Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said. 

- Scotland is set to begin its nationwide easing of lockdown measures from April 26, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said. "We can now see a firm way out of this if we all stick together and stick with it," she added.

- European Football's governing body UEFA has announced the Under-19 European Championship for both men and women has been canceled amid the pandemic. The men's event was due to to take place in Romania from June 30, while the women's event was scheduled for Belarus from July 21.

- Spain has decided to extend its travel ban on arrivals from the UK, Brazil and South Africa until March 16 amid concerns over the variants that were first discovered in those countries.

- Hungary is to start vaccinations with China's Sinopharm jab on Wednesday, becoming the first country in the European Union to begin inoculations with the shot, the government said on its coronavirus information page on Facebook.

- The Italian government has extended a ban on non-essential travel between the country's 20 regions until at least March 27. The measure was due to expire on March 5, but Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his cabinet have since approved a decree to continue the restrictions.

- Portugal is aiming to inoculate 70 percent of its population by the end of the summer, Health Minister Marta Temido said. While vaccine program coordinator Henrique Gouveia e Melo said herd immunity "should be achieved in August or early September" if the projected vaccine stocks are correct.

- Slovakia's Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok has called on its EU partners to send vaccine shipments to help the country through what he describes as a "tragic" situation. "I fully realize that other countries have a vaccine shortage as well but Slovakia now, also based on the fact that we have the highest death rate, at the moment needs it most," he added.

- The first batch of the AstraZeneca jab has arrived in Ukraine, according to Kyiv's Boryspil airport press service. Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said the batch amounted to 500,000 doses, the first shots received by the country.





Toni Waterman in Brussels

Belgium's prime minister is trying to manage expectations ahead of Friday's meeting on COVID-19 restrictions. While many are hoping the government will announce an easing of measures, Alexander De Croo has warned that the current figures aren't currently low enough to warrant any sort of major relaxation. Instead, he said Belgians should set their sights on the beginning of May. 

Biostatisticians laid out four different scenarios during a press conference on Monday afternoon, each showing that more transmissible mutant strains will lead to a third wave of infections. Experts said the size of that wave will be determined by when restrictions are eased. Pushing it back to late spring would give the government more time to vaccinate people. Right now, just 3.6 percent of the population has received their first dose of a vaccine. 



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Ross Cullen in Paris

A lockdown is being brought in for the next two weekends in the Alpes-Maritimes region due to the area's exploding infection rate. Shops bigger than 5,000 square meters in area have to close from today in the region. Alpes-Maritimes includes the beach city of Nice and its mayor said "decisions have not been easy to take" but "we have to act." 

The infection rate in Dunkirk is 900 per 100,000 people, four times the national average and the mayor of the northern port town has called for an urgent meeting with the government to discuss the situation. One of the members of France's Scientific Council, which advises the government on the pandemic, said "it is possible that the Alpes-Maritimes model could be reproduced elsewhere." 

In addition, 11 players from the France men's national rugby team have tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating. A decision will be made on Wednesday whether to go ahead with the scheduled match in Paris against Scotland this February 28.




Trent Murray in Frankfurt

The latest data from Germany's Robert Koch Institute show there have been 3,883 new COVID-19 cases recorded. That means the national rate remains relatively stable – neither a major decline nor an increase. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with state premiers next week to decide next steps in the national lockdown. The measures are due to expire on March 7, but she has long maintained that restrictions can only be lifted when there is a big drop in new cases. 

The return of warmer weather also has health experts concerned, as more people venture outside to enjoy the sunshine, there's a worry the circulation of the virus could increase as people congregate outdoors.


Julia Chapman in Budapest

Hungary's parliament has voted to extend the country's state of emergency for a further 90 days. 

All opposition members of the National Assembly voted against the movement but were outnumbered by the two-thirds majority of the ruling Fidesz Party. 

The government argued the emergency powers were necessary to continue combating COVID-19 as a third wave of the pandemic continues in the country. 

Opposition parties supported the last extension in November, but on Monday argued the government had abused its previous mandate, which effectively allows Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree. 

A proposed amendment to allow choice between coronavirus vaccines did not pass.


France's labor minister Elisabeth Borne has urged companies to allow their employees to work from home in a bid to prevent another nationwide lockdown. /AP

France's labor minister Elisabeth Borne has urged companies to allow their employees to work from home in a bid to prevent another nationwide lockdown. /AP



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