Reluctant French get vaccination as health pass closes doors

A member of French Red Cross welcomes a vacationer at a COVID-19 vaccination center set up at a camp on Aug 13, 2021 in Argeles-sur-Mer, southern France.
(RAYMOND ROIG / AFP)

OTTAWA/HAVANA/DUBLIN/NICOSIA/LONDON/ROME/PARIS/AMSTERDAM/NEW YORK -Reluctant French people lined up to get vaccinated as authorities were set to get tougher on the mandatory health pass for entering restaurants, trains and public places.

From this week, citizens have been required to show the pass in public places, proving that they have been vaccinated or have recently been tested negative for the coronavirus.

While police had instructions to be lenient the first week, the government has vowed to get tougher on health pass checks from next week.

With testing set to be no longer free from October, many went to vaccination centers with heavy hearts in order to get the pass and be able to carry on with their lives as normal.

France has registered 6.39 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 112,468 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

More than 45 million French people have been vaccinated with at least one jab, with an increase after President Emmanuel Macron's July 12 speech where he announced the health pass and mandatory vaccination for health workers.

Car crosses the border into Canada, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Aug 9, 2021.  (EDUARDO LIMA / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)

Canada

Canada’s government announced plans on Friday to require vaccinations for employees in the federal government and the transportation sector, as well as for travelers.

The plan will begin “early fall” for public sector workers, it was announced at a press conference with Dominic LeBlanc, minister for intergovernmental affairs, and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

Alghabra said air, rail and cruise ship passengers will have to be vaccinated. The plan is to implement regulations no later than the end of October.

That would be more in line with the United States, where the White House is requiring all US federal workers be vaccinated or face regular testing and mask mandates. 

The Canadian government also said it had signed an agreement with Moderna for additional supply of its COVID-19 vaccine for 2022 and 2023, with an option to extend into 2024.

Canada will receive 40 million doses, as per the deal, with an option for an additional 65 million doses.

The partnership "will help to bridge Canada's capacity to maintain a reliable and rapidly available supply of vaccines into 2022 and 2023 ahead of Moderna's Canadian vaccine facility becoming operational," Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in a statement.

Meanwhile, US drugmaker Merck & Co Inc has initiated a rolling submission to Health Canada for Molnupiravir, an oral antiviral therapy treatment for COVID-19, it said in a statement on Friday.

Molnupiravir is being developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for the treatment of non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients. 

Canada has one of the best inoculation rates in the world, with more than 82 percent of eligible people having one shot and 71 percent fully-vaccinated. Still, active cases have doubled in two weeks amid a Delta-driven fourth wave.

Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday said the government is considering lifting social distancing rules on Sept 20 as COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands ease.

In the week ended Aug 10, cases fell by 14 percent in the Netherlands to 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, the country's National Institute for Health (RIVM) found.

However, Rutte said some pandemic restrictions are still needed for now, including keeping nightclubs and restaurants closed after midnight.

An attempt to lift most restrictions, including on nightlife, on June 26 had to be canceled two weeks later after cases in young adults surged. 

Around two-thirds of Dutch people aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated, and 90 percent said they have had or plan to have a vaccine.

Russia

Russia's daily COVID-19 deaths hit a new record of 819 on Saturday, a day after Moscow's health department reported the highest number of monthly deaths in the city since the start of the pandemic.

Russia's daily coronavirus deaths are on the rise after infections peaked in July. Authorities blame the infectious Delta variant and a slow vaccination rate.

Russia's official total coronavirus death toll stands at 169,683. Rosstat, the government statistics agency, keeps a separate count from the pandemic task force and says it recorded around 315,000 deaths related to COVID-19 between last April and June this year.

Alberto Fernandez (HECTOR VIVAS/GETTY IMAGES/BLOOMBERG)

Argentina

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez apologized after a photo that showed him hosting a birthday party for his longtime partner during the country’s strictest phase of last year’s COVID-19 lockdown came to light, triggering opposition calls to start an impeachment process.

The photo taken in July 2020 and published Thursday by a local TV channel shows Fernandez with first lady Fabiola Yanez at the presidential residence on the outskirts of Buenos Aires along with several friends in celebration mode. No one in the photo is wearing a face mask.

Fernandez insisted on Friday afternoon that “we didn’t hide anything,” and noted that Yanez organized the party.

READ MORE: Argentina partially reopens as it approaches 5m virus cases

“On July 14, birthday of my dear Fabiola, Fabiola organized a gathering and toast with her friends, that she shouldn’t have done,” said Fernandez at an event in rural Buenos Aires province. “I lament what happened, it won’t happen again.”

Opposition leaders are now threatening to start an impeachment process in congress, arguing the president breached the regulations he established to contain the virus from spreading.

Argentina confirmed on Friday 8,472 new COVID-19 infections in one day, bringing the total to 5,074,725 cases, the Ministry of Health reported. It recorded 246 more deaths, bringing the tally to 108,815.

US

The recent COVID-19 hospitalization rate among adults aged 30 to 39 is the highest it's ever been in the United States, while that among seniors aged 70 and older is about a quarter of what it was in January, showed the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children account for a larger share of hospitalizations now than they did in January, as the hospitalization rate among those under the age of 18 hovers right around the record high. 

Florida, together with Louisiana, is now reporting a record number of COVID-19 hospital admissions. In Mississippi and Arkansas, daily admissions are at more than 87 percent of their earlier peak, and in Oregon, Alabama and Washington, daily admissions are at more than 75 percent of their peak.

ALSO READ: US mental health under growing strain in virus' 2nd summer

The crush of new COVID-19 infections in Mississippi has become so dire that the state has turned to efforts reminiscent of the earliest days of the US pandemic, when a field hospital was set up in New York's Central Park and a medical ship was moored in the Hudson River.

A tent awaits is partially assembled in a University of Mississippi Medical Center garage, Aug 11, 2021, as the conversion of the parking facility into a field hospital begins in Jackson, Mississippi.
(ROGELIO V. SOLIS/AP)

Cuba

Cuba, grappling with a dire COVID-19 outbreak fueled by the Delta variant, said "only 21,000," or 0.8 percent of the 2.5 million people inoculated with its homegrown vaccines, had fallen ill with the disease