France is bringing forward the country’s annual flu vaccination campaign by four days to begin on October 22 for people who are most at risk. France’s government public health body, Direction générale de la santé (DGS), notified pharmacists and doctors’ surgeries of the new start date on Monday this week via an “urgent” message. “This year, in the midst of a situation where the Covid-19 and influenza viruses are both circulating, the risk of co-infection, of becoming seriously ill and dying,” is increased, it said. The DGS is therefore eager to “encourage a synergy between the two vaccination campaigns and to waste no time in vaccinating the most vulnerable people against flu and against Covid.” Care homes have already begun rolling out the flu vaccine, which pharmacists, doctors, nurses and midwives will be able to administer from Friday. In 2020, lockdown restrictions, social distancing and hygiene measures meant that there was no major flu outbreak, and so this year very few people have significant immunity against the virus. Healthcare professionals are therefore concerned that this winter could see a “more intense” flu epidemic than normal. Groups who are eligible for the flu vaccination include: Over-65s People who are immunosuppressed and their immediate entourage People who suffer from chronic health conditions Obese people Pregnant women
A new deal between a medtech start-up and a 3D printing technology firm will see the latter’s innovative solutions made available across French hospitals. The agreement between French medtech start-up Bone 3D and Stratasys, a polymer 3D printing solutions provider, will afford hospitals direct access to an immediate, localised way of 3D printing essential medical equipment, medical devices and patient-specific anatomical models. Healthcare providers can sub-contract 3D printing hardware and services from Bone 3D, granting them the direct means to fulfil their own production needs on-site, as well as receive dedicated ongoing support from Bone 3D technicians. Jérémy Adam, CEO and founder, Bone 3D said: “Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the world witnessed the importance of 3D printing first-hand as it provided a swift and direct means of producing vital PPE to equip frontline healthcare workers, ventilator parts and other critical medical equipment. “However, beyond that, the versatility of 3D printing has seen huge demand from hospitals and medical institutions for a means to create maintenance parts, rehabilitation parts and medical devices. Our Hospifactory initiative will ensure that some of the market’s most advanced 3D printing technologies are made accessible exactly where and when they are needed by surgeons and clinicians across the French hospital network.” The latest partnership between Stratasys and Bone 3D follows last year’s deployment by Bone 3D of 60 Stratasys FDM 3D printers in the AP-HP in Paris, to support the frontline fight against COVID-19. *Image by krzysztof-m from Pixabay
A large French study involving 22 million people has shown that COVID vaccines dramatically reduce a person’s risk of being severely impacted by the disease. While being vaccinated doesn’t guarantee you won’t catch COVID or indeed become ill, it does, however, reduce your risk of being hospitalised or dying by as much as 90 per cent. The study, published Monday, also found two-dose vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca, protect against the worst effects of the so-called Delta variant. For people aged 75 and older, such vaccines offered 84 per cent protection. This figure rose to 92 per cent for people 50 to 75. The results were the same for each vaccine manufacturer. “The vaccine was never really intended to stop the disease,” says Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s System Director of Infection Disease and Chief Epidemiologist. “It was a very nice side effect that we were preventing disease, but it’s main purpose is to prevent the morbidity and mortality should we get the disease. It was really to take a deadly disease and turn it into the common cold.” The study was conducted by a scientific group set up by France’s health system (Epi-Share), its national insurance fund (l’Assurance Maladie) and its medicine agency (ANSM). N.B. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Janssen) was not included in the research due to an insufficient number of patients for comparison. * Image by Surprising_Shots from Pixabay
French Health Minister Olivier Véran has hailed the country’s Covid-19 health pass as a success, adding that similar initiatives are now being introduced in “dozens” of other countries around the world. Speaking to France 5, Mr Véran said other countries were now considering similar initiatives having seen the impact made in France. The health pass obliges people to show proof of full vaccination, a recent negative test or recent recovery from Covid-19 to be able to enter restaurants, bars and a range of other public spaces. Since the pass was announced by President Emmanuel Macron on July 12, some 12 million people (equivalent to 18% of France’s population) have been vaccinated, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex. Back in March, only 3% of the French population had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Le Monde. But this figure has now risen to 67%, highlighting how more and more people are receiving a Covid vaccine. Interestingly, take-up among the young has been particularly high considering vaccination was delayed for this group. Meanwhile, Covid health passes will no longer be required for entry into all but 64 French shopping centres this week. From Wednesday the health pass obligation will no longer apply to centres of more than 20,000 square metres in departments where the infection rate has dropped below 200 per 100,000 residents, and where cases have been falling for a week or more, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced yesterday (September 6). *Image by Please Don't sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay
France extended its mandate to carry Covid-19 health passes to certain categories of workers as of yesterday. The move marks a new stage in the French government’s strategy to encourage members of the public to have Covid-19 vaccines. Under the new rules, staff who work face to face with the public – for example, at cafés, cinemas or on public transport – are now required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 72 hours. Some 1.8 million workers across the country will be encompassed by the measures. Members of the public are already required to carry health passes in order to access eateries and cultural or leisure venues. While polls suggest a majority of the public supports Covid-19 health passes, their introduction has led to protests throughout the summer, with tens of thousands of protesters staging rallies across the country on consecutive weekends. The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital. [Related reading: France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists] *Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay
New Covid-19 treatments should be widely available in France before the end of the year, the head of the country's Scientific Council has predicted. According to a report in Le Parisien newspaper, Jean-François Delfraissy, an immunologist and president of the Conseil scientifique, which advises the government on medical matters, said monoclonal and polyclonal antibody treatments would be made more widely available in the coming months. Monoclonal antibody treatments are made using Covid-19 survivors’ own antibodies and are designed to fight infection just as the natural immune system would. Former US President Donald Trump received monoclonal antibody drugs when he was hospitalised with Covid-19 in 2020. At the beginning of August, French health authorities authorised the use of monoclonal antibody treatments for immuno-compromised patients who cannot be vaccinated against the virus because of their conditions. The treatments are set to be rolled out for use as required by doctors among the wider population before the end of the year. A number of pharmaceutical companies are in the process of applying for medical authorisation. They would be “effective for high-risk patients, and should reduce the number of hospitalisations”, Le Parisien reported, but would only be available under medical supervision. The drugs are intended for use in patients who are already severely ill with Covid. They do not prevent people developing the illness in the first place. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay
Since Monday, anyone wanting to visit a restaurant, bar or other attraction/venue in France has to use a QR code-based digital health pass. The passes are designed to prove a person has either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours. Now, vaccinated travelers to France from outside the European Union have a way to obtain the digital health passes and visit popular tourist sites, including iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, travel across the country by train, or enjoy a coffee and croissant at a Paris cafe. US travelers already in France or planning to arrive by Sunday can apply for a French health pass by submitting a copy of their CDC vaccine card, valid passport, and airline tickets to French officials via email. Visitors from the US, Canada and the rest of the world have bespoke email addresses. Visitors to France will need to have been fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca vaccines. The French government is currently accepting applications from travelers who are 18 and older, and are already in Europe or plan to arrive by August 15. Right now, it is unclear how the process may change for visitors planning trips further ahead. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated digital transformation across the entire healthcare industry. That’s one of the key findings from new Google Cloud research. According to the survey of 300 US physicians, nine in 10 (90%) currently use telehealth (vs. just 32% pre-pandemic). Moreover, more than half (62%) of physicians said the pandemic forced their healthcare organization to make tech upgrades that would normally have taken several years to implement. Just under half (48%) of physicians said they would like to have access to telehealth capabilities in the next five years. However, most physicians agreed that the healthcare industry lacks behind others when it comes to digital adoption. Indeed, 64% of physicians said digital adoption was more advanced in the gaming industry, while 56% and 53%, respectively, said the telecommunications industry and financial services industry were more digitally advanced. Nevertheless, the healthcare industry’s digital adoption has improved, closing the gap on the retail, hospitality and travel, and public sectors. Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian, said during a recent HIMSS21 Global Conference Digital Session: “The more efficient you can make the healthcare system, the more that healthcare system can invest back in patient care, new forms of treatment, new forms of drug discovery, et cetera.” *Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Dr Clair Vandersteen might have treated around 10 patients a year for anosmia, the inability to smell. But fast-forward to today and Dr Vandersteen has seen demand for his services increase significantly. Now, the majority of his patients are those recovering from COVID-19, up to 15 a week, in fact, at the doctor’s clinic in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice. Loss of smell is a symptom in eight out of 10 COVID-19 cases and can the effects can sometimes linger for months after the patient has recovered from the disease. “We have seen a very large increase in patients since this time a year ago,” Dr Vandersteen said. The ENT specialist says studies show that 20% of people who lost their sense of smell still had not regained it and it’s younger individuals that appear to be worst affected. “The patients we see suffering from a loss of smell are relatively young. It is predominantly a problem that affects people in their 30s and 40s.” While for some people it might seem little more than an inconvenience, Dr Vandersteen warns the condition can make patients anxious and depressed. “The loss of smell can lead to psychological problems – 30% of people who have lost their sense of smell due to Covid are suffering from some kind of psychological damage. We love eating, especially here in France, so when chocolate tastes like cigarettes, for example, it can lead to people feeling unhappy or anxious. “If you can’t enjoy the smell of your newborn baby, or the smell of your home, it can be unsettling. It can also be dangerous – if you can’t smell gas or smoke, for example.” Dr Vandersteen’s team has come up with a three-pronged approach to help. First, patients see Dr Vandersteen, who determines their level of smell loss. Then, they are seen by Auriane Gros, a doctor of neuroscience and a speech pathologist, who helps re-educate the brain to recover the perception of smells. The final step is therapy with child psychiatrist Louise-Emilie Dumas, who runs group workshops around odours. “The team has had positive results,” Dr Vandersteen says. *Image courtesy of Dr Clair Vandersteen
France’s parliament approved a bill early on Monday requiring people to have a health pass to access restaurants, bars, trains and planes from the beginning of August. At present, all venues accommodating more than 50 people already require proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Museums, cinemas, swimming pools and other venues are all included under this law. As well as the health pass requirement for all restaurants and domestic travel, the French parliament has also approved mandatory vaccines for all health workers. The law requires all healthcare sector workers to start getting vaccinated by Sept. 15 or risk suspension. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say both steps are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound, as well as avoid new lockdowns. The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and the weekend to reach a compromise, which was approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight. To get the health pass, people in France must have proof they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative for COVID-19 or recently recovered from the virus. Both paper and digital documents will be accepted.
The UK NHS’ COVID app alerts people who have it installed to self-isolate if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus disease. But a surge in the number of notifications being received has led to a significant proportion of Brits simply switching the app off. According to a YouGov poll, one in five (20%) Brits have switched off the contract tracing function of the NHS COVID app, as the country experiences a so-called “pingdemic” of alerts. While anyone who is pinged by the app is not obliged by law to self-isolate, the UK government is strongly advising people to follow the advice to help curb COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 restrictions were recently lifted in England and since July 19, there are now no limits on how many people can meet or attend events; nightclubs have reopened; and table service is no longer necessary in pubs and restaurants. However, many other governments are looking at the UK as something of a guinea pig, having taken the decision to ease COVID restrictions despite surging numbers of delta variant cases. The UK has a relatively high vaccination rate, so it remains to be seen if that is enough to prevent the delta variant from causing significant problems. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay
In an attempt to curb COVID-19 delta variant infections, France will require anyone entering a restaurant, café, shopping centre, hospital or taking a long-distance train to show a special health pass from August. The same health pass – which shows that a person has been vaccinated, has recently had a negative coronavirus test or has newly recovered from the virus – will also be required for anyone over the age of 12 to enter a cinema, theatre, museum, theme park or cultural centre. Originally, any business found not to be checking said health passes of its client could face a 45,000 euro fine. This has now been lowered significantly, with fines starting at 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Checks will initially be meant to help people apply the measures, but the fines will not be imposed immediately. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news conference he could not say exactly when the "run-in period" would end and fines would be imposed. He said it might be more than a week, but would be less than a month, to allow everyone the time needed to adapt to the new rules. "We have entered the fourth wave of the epidemic," Attal said after a meeting of the French cabinet. *Image by Please Don't sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay
Bastille Day is France’s national day and it is celebrated every year on July 14. But how did it get its name and why is it celebrated? One of the most important national holidays for people in France, Bastille Day is celebrated in remembrance of the storming of Paris’ Bastille Prison in 1789. It was on this day when revolutionists and mutinous troops stormed and captured the military fortress and prison. The event was significant as the Bastille had become a symbol of the French king, Louis XVI’s, harsh rule and tyranny. Its fall sparked the beginning of the French Revolution, which would last for a decade and see both King Louis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, executed by guillotine in 1793. The end of the French Revolution led to the formation of the French Consulate, the top-level government of France until Napoleon declared himself emperor in 1804. Bastille Day 2021 Yesterday, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, people all across France recognised Bastille Day. In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron led the national day parade, which started at the Arc de Triomphe monument and ended with a ceremony on the Concorde square. Thousands of military and public security personnel paraded by foot, on vehicles and aboard jets over Paris' Champs Elysees Avenue yesterday. You can see some coverage of the military parade in this video: https://youtu.be/hgeLhCkFBwI *Image: “Taking of the Bastille” by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr
France’s healthcare system is to benefit from €7bn worth of investment, which is designed to drive innovation in the sector. Speaking at the end of June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that public funding would be made available in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Part of France’s Health Innovation Plan 2030, €2bn will be invested by the state-owned Banque Publique d'Investissement (BPI) in start-ups and small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in the healthcare industry. France will also invest €2bn in research for emerging and infectious diseases, biotherapies and digital health. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan will allocate almost €750 million for emerging infectious diseases and CBRN (nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical) threats. Another €800m will be dedicated to biotherapies and the bioproduction of innovative therapies that represent 50% of the clinical trials currently underway. These technologies enable the development of so-called personalised medicine by providing therapeutic solutions in oncology, immunology, virology and for rare diseases, for example. President Macron wants to make France the leading European country in healthcare innovation by 2030. He has committed to lift administrative hurdles to speed up organisational changes in the healthcare system. *Image by Parentingupstream from Pixabay
Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is something many people have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is something that has really come into its own, helping patients connect with their clinicians at a time when just leaving the house presented a challenge. Now, another form of virtual healthcare, teledentistry, is emerging as another potential disruptor in the healthcare space. Predicted to witness spectacular growth of 16.6% from 2020-2027 to reach US$ 920.83million in 2027 from US$ 242.51million in 2019, the European teledentistry market looks set to achieve spectacular results. But it’s not just in Europe where teledentistry is taking off. According to a report in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed a bill into law formally ending a ban on teledentistry in the state. The new law comes months after a lawsuit was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and after bipartisan calls for reform were made. Under the new law, the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners will not be allowed to ban teledentistry, bringing it in line with other telemedicine practices. Abbott previously signed a bill into law expanding and making some telemedicine services permanent. “This is great news for Texas citizens who will continue to have access to quality dental care from the comfort of their homes,” Joshua Polk, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, said. The foundation represented teledentistry providers who challenged the Texas Board of Dental Examiners’ ban. “There is a crisis in dental care access in Texas, and this legislation will go a long way in addressing that crisis,” he added. “It will also allow our clients to continue operations in the state.” *Image by Rafael Juárez from Pixabay
On Tuesday, France lowered the age of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to 12, opening the door for millions of French children to receive a boost to their resilience to the coronavirus pandemic. Perceval Gete, a 12-year-old French boy from the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, was one of the youngest people in Europe to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to reports. To accommodate his young age, the nurse administering the jab had to use a special child-size needle. “I wanted it to be done as soon as possible,” his mother, Melanie Gete, said at the vaccination center in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine after Perceval had the jab. Prior to the rule change, people in France had to be at least 18 years old, or 16 if they had underlying conditions, to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Now, providing they have parental consent, children as young as 12 can be vaccinated. In wealthy countries worldwide, governments have been expanding their vaccination programs to include younger people, who, it is worth noting, are less likely than older individuals to get seriously ill from COVID-19. However, France’s limit of 12 years is one of the lowest of any major European Union state. Nurse Aurelie Job, who administered the vaccine to Perceval Gete on Tuesday, used a needle that is around half the length of the standard size used for adults. “Children have smaller arms so we need smaller needles to vaccinate children,” she said. “It prevents us from touching the bone while vaccinating children, and it’s less upsetting for them.”
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has published an update in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine stating that, during the pandemic, telemedicine has been an effective tool for the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders. Since the academy’s last update in 2015, the use of telemedicine services has increased exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The academy’s latest update adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted telemedicine’s ‘importance in improving access to sleep care and advocating for sleep health.’ Furthermore, a growing body of published research has found telemedicine to be effective in the management of patients with sleep disorders, such as apnea, and for the delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia. The update authors also outlined how a shortage of trained behavioral sleep therapists has led to the development of online application-based CBT-I programs and a recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that internet-delivered CBT-I is effective in improving sleep. Telemedicine, the academy says, is also effective for helping to treat sleep disorders among children: ‘Telehealth follow-up visits, primarily via telephone, have been used for chronic management of obstructive sleep apnea and internet delivered CBT-I has been shown to be effective in adolescents with insomnia.’ *Image by Claudio_Scott from Pixabay
Prior to the Covid-10 pandemic, medical tourism was one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Indeed, according to Grand View Research, the global medical tourism market size was valued at US$44.8 billion in 2019, with compound annual growth of 21.1% expected between 2020 and 2027. However, the global SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has significantly impacted travel abroad. Luckily, we are seeing signs that things are slowly returning to normal. [Related reading: France to offer free Covid-19 tests to tourists this summer] Now, something that has come into its own during the coronavirus pandemic is telehealth. In fact, data shows usage of telehealth services has increased by more than 2,000% since 2019. But what’s going to happen to telehealth services once “normal” travel resumes? We believe they’ll still play a pivotal role, particularly when it comes to complementing medical tourism. With telehealth, patients can have consultations with specialists on the other side of the world, negating the need to travel in the first instance. If the patient and clinician agree that travel for surgery or other healthcare is necessary, telehealth can continue to afford benefits, including: - Improve the quality and efficiency of customer service by helping to coordinate care between providers in the patient’s home country and the medical tourism destination - Enhance pre-operative and post-operative care - Optimize patient and family member travel. If you’d like to find out more about our telehealth services and/or how we can help you get any medical treatment you need in France, get in touch today. *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
While many European countries insist upon travelers presenting a negative Covid-19 test before they enter, France is looking to greet tourists more openly this summer, providing foreigners with the option to have a free PCR test when they arrive in the country. Speaking during an interview with Europe 1 news on Sunday, Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, said France is currently the only European country providing the option of free PCR tests to its citizens. He added that this facility will now be extended to foreign tourists arriving for vacation. Beaune said the move was designed to boost tourism in France and help the country economically. “We need, we want, in good sanitary conditions, to remain the leading European and world tourist destination,” he told BFMTV, another news channel. Covid-19 PCR tests currently cost anywhere from €50-€300 in Spain, UK, Germany, and Sweden. However, the European Parliament has called for countries to provide such tests for free, or at least make them more affordable. Beaune added that the planned digital health pass, which will include travelers’ vaccination details, is being eyed as a “tool for reopening” tourism. [Related reading: France is first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Parisian catwalks will reopen from July as the French government looks to wind down Covid-19 restrictions, paving the way for live fashions show to resume, the country's fashion industry body announced on Tuesday (May 11). The annual Haute Couture Week — which sees a select club of designers display one-of-a-kind, handmade outfits — will take place from July 5 to July 8 and fashion houses will be allowed to organise live shows and presentations, according to a statement from the French fashion industry body Federation De La Haute Couture Et De La Mode Depending on how the pandemic progresses, physical fashion shows with live guests would be allowed, in line with government guidance on public events. No major live fashion shows have been held in Paris since September 2020. Back then, some brands, including Dior and Chanel, organised a few shows with live audiences, but with a strictly limited number of guests. In the past months, fashion brands have presented their new lines in online-only shows and have experimented with other ways to showcase their designs such as short films and one-on-one presentations. The federation said its Haute Couture online platform https://hautecouture.fhcm.paris/fr would remain available for digital-only shows going forward and would also retransmit the physical shows. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Paris’ multiple fashion weeks generated some 1.2 billion euros for the local economy every year, the federation grouping couture houses estimates. *Image courtesy of Pexels from Pixabay
Telemedicine will save the healthcare industry a staggering $21 billion in costs by 2025, new research suggests. This represents an increase of over 80% in the next four years, rising from $11 billion in 2021. According to the study by Juniper Research, teleconsultations, a service that enables patients and physicians to interact remotely with patients, will play a key role in enabling these significant savings. However, Juniper cautioned that such savings would be restricted to developed countries where people have access to required devices and suitable Internet connectivity. Indeed, Juniper predicts that North America and Europe will realise over 80% of savings by 2025. The Jupiter report also reveals how telemedicine usage has soared as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with remote consultations rising from over 280 million in 2019, to 348 million in 2020. By taking advantage of telehealth solutions, doctor’s offices have been able to significantly reduce the number of face-to-face appointments they’ve needed to accommodate, cutting the risk of waiting room Covid-19 infections. However, the report did warn that the significant investment required and obligation to abide by data protection laws, such as the US’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), could discourage telemedicine adoption among smaller healthcare providers. “Any deregulation must ensure that patient confidentiality is not undermined,” said research author Adam Wears. “Additionally, we recommend that innovative and emerging teleconsultation services are integrated into existing healthcare technologies, such as electronic health records, to maximise their benefits to healthcare providers.” Jupiter Research’s report, Telemedicine: Emerging Technologies, Regional Readiness & Market Forecasts 2021‑2025, is available here: https://www.juniperresearch.com/researchstore/key-vertical-markets/telemedicine-research-report *Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
France has granted citizenship to more than 2,000 foreign-born frontline workers as a reward to them for their services to the country throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 children, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for "showing their attachment to the nation". Back in September, Schiappa instructed citizenship authorities to speed up the applications of essential workers who had "actively contributed" in the fight against Covid-19. She ordered that they be allowed to apply for citizenship after just two years in France. Normally, under French Nationality Law, a person can apply for French citizenship by naturalization after five years' habitual and continuous residence in the country. Among the more than 2,000 individuals granted citizenship are health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies. Schiappa's office said that over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, adding that all requests were being given "the greatest consideration". In 2020, 61,371 people were granted French citizenship, a decline of 20% compared with 2019. [Related reading: Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
France’s third Covid-19 lockdown is easing. Children have returned to school across the country and a domestic travel ban has been lifted. Citizens can now travel anywhere in France, which is a huge improvement over the previous restriction that prevented people from going more than 10km (six miles) from their homes. French citizens also no longer need to carry a form giving a valid reason for travelling. However, a night-time curfew remains in force in the country, with restrictions in place from 19:00 to 06:00 nationwide France’s third lockdown, lighter than the previous two, was implemented back in March. Under the French government's plan, more easing will begin on 19 May, when the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 21:00, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to welcome outdoor diners, and spectators will be allowed to return to sports venues. Along with indoor eating places, France will keep non-essential businesses, shopping centres and leisure facilities closed. The lockdown easing comes as France continues to register around 25,000 new coronavirus infections each day. Fortunately, the number of patients in intensive care units has dropped below 5,600. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay
We recently wrote about how France is the first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate. Now, the UK has announced that it will use its NHS health app as a vaccine passport going forward. Part of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap for enabling international travel, the vaccine passport will allow vaccinated Britons to enjoy quarantine-free travel to certain countries this summer. The UK Government has set out plans for a "traffic light" system to be used to categorise different destinations. Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said that more details about the vaccine passport will be revealed "in the next couple of weeks", including which countries will be included on the so-called "green list". Britons will be able to travel to these destinations without having to quarantine on their return. However, travellers will still be expected to have a Covid-19 test both when departing the UK and upon their return. Mr Shapps also confirmed that the UK NHS smartphone app will be used to store people’s vaccine information, effectively making it a vaccine passport. Speaking about the possibility of vaccine passports being around for the long term, Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the UK science and technology select committee: “One reason is that Covid is not going to go away; it is going to be endemic around the world, it is going to keep resurfacing, and I think that, just as we’ve had yellow fever passports for years and years and years, we’re going to have Covid passports too”. *Image courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay
France has become the first European country to begin testing a digital Covid-19 travel certificate as part of a Europe-wide scheme which Brussels hopes will allow more freedom of travel within the bloc by the summer. The testing will be conducted through France’s TousAntiCovid app, part of the country’s contact tracing programme, which has been upgraded to allow it to store negative Covid-19 test results on travellers’ mobile phones. The app is being trialled on flights to Corsica and overseas départements from this week. According to a French official, at first, the certificates will only be used for travel, but they “could eventually be adopted for public events such as concerts, festivals and trade fairs,” although not for bars and restaurants. The app has so far been downloaded by nearly 15 million French citizens. The French trial will form one part of a “reinforced, consolidated and standardised” Europe-wide system, the minister for digital transition, Cédric O, said. Talks are already underway with several countries and airlines to ensure early recognition. The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said last week he expected the EU’s “digital green certificate” to be operational by 21st June. The certificate is an urgent priority for southern European member states whose economies have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay
French President Emanuel Macron has revealed that France could allow vaccinated touriusts, including Americans and Britons, to enter the country in May. Macron said France is in its last stage of finalising the progressive lifting of travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers and people who have tested negative for COVID-19. Restrictions will reportedly be lifted for European Union and third-country citizens, according to SchengenVisaInfo.com. The president said that French ministers are finalising the details for safe restriction-free travel and developing a testing and vaccination certificate to facilitate travel among EU countries. “We will progressively lift the restrictions of the beginning of May, which means that we will organise in the summertime with our professionals in France for French European citizens, but as well for American citizens. So we are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say,” Macron said. With the establishment of a so-called “vaccine passport”, Macron pointed out that the country would be able to control the virus and maximise the vaccination rates, which would allow restrictions to be lifted progressively. Macron also revealed that he had spoken with the White House about potential plans for lifting some travel restrictions between France and the US, though talks were still in their early stages. *Image courtesy of Phil Riley from Pixabay
As we highlighted in a previous blog post, telehealth/telemedicine services have come into their own during the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing patients to connect with their clinicians in a way that’s fast, convenient and safe. However, remote consultations often have their limitations, including how to perform diagnostic tests and take medical measurements. But now researchers from the University of Washington have devised a way to measure patients' pulse and breathing rates via a smartphone's camera. The researchers say the advancement will make telehealth more accurate and useful. According to UW News, the system, called MetaPhys, can detect a patient’s pulse or respiration rate using in real-time using video of their face. "Machine learning is pretty good at classifying images. If you give it a series of photos of cats and then tell it to find cats in other images, it can do it," Xin Liu, the study's lead author and a student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering doctoral student, told UW News. "But for machine learning to be helpful in remote health sensing, we need a system that can identify the region of interest in a video that holds the strongest source of physiological information — pulse, for example — and then measure that over time." The team's original iteration of MetaPhys was presented last December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. However, the first iteration had some pitfalls, most notably that it struggled with certain lights, backgrounds and skin colors. The second version, the researchers say, improves upon the first and overcomes these limitations. *Image courtesy of tookapic from Pixabay
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, telehealth/telemedicine services were more of a convenience than a necessity for most patients. They offered (and still do offer) a way for a patient to consult with their clinician without having to make a trip to the doctor’s office. But it was when the Covid-19 pandemic struck that telehealth really came into its own, with more patients than ever taking advantage of such services to receive non-emergency healthcare from the safety of their own homes. Now, new research from Sykes reveals that most consumers – having experienced telehealth services during the pandemic -- want them to remain post-Covid. According to the Sykes survey, which polled 2,000 Americans in March on how their opinions on virtual care have changed within the past year, more than 61% had undergone a telehealth visit come March this year. In comparison, less than 20% had utilized telehealth by March 2020. Furthermore, in March 2020, around 65% of Americans felt hesitant or doubtful about the quality of telehealth services, while 56% did not believe they could afford the same level of care compared to in-person appointments. However, now, almost 88% want to continue using telehealth for non-urgent consultations after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. Moreover, almost 80% agree it's possible to receive quality care via telehealth services. *Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
French schools have closed for at least three weeks under a third national lockdown to fight rising Covid-19 cases. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that schools would switch to remote learning from the beginning of this week. Other lockdown measures, introduced in some parts of France earlier this month, including Paris, have also been extended to other areas. From last Saturday, all non-essential shops closed and there is now a ban on travelling more than 10km (6 miles) from home without good reason. Last Wednesday, the country's health ministry reported 59,038 new cases. France has so far reported more than 4.6 million cases of coronavirus and 95,495 Covid-related deaths. In a live televised address, Mr Macron described the situation in France as "delicate". He added that April would be a “crucial” month in the battle against Covid-19. "We will lose control if we do not move now," he said. Mr Macron outlined that the race to vaccinate would continue alongside attempting to control the spread of the virus. He said that while schools would be closing from this week, classes would remain open for the children of key workers. Image: French President Emmanuel Macron, courtesy of Foundations World Economic Forum, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
In an effort to ramp up its vaccination drive, France has confirmed it will open at least 35 giant ‘megacentre vaccinodromes’ across the country by April. Health Minister Olivier Véran this week confirmed: “The health service and the army will work to develop a certain number of giant vaccination centres - we might call them ‘vaccinodromes’ or ‘megacentres’, whatever name you want to use.” Mr Véran stated his goal of having “10 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by mid-April”, with the campaign rollout set to speed up next month “because supplies of the vaccine will rise”. France’s total population is c. 67 million. From Marseille to Toulon to Lyon and Paris, work is ongoing to turn some of the nation’s largest sporting arenas, including Paris’s Stade de France, into mass Covid-19 vaccination centres. However, the health minister has said that his long-term goal is to have “one or two megacenters per department”, which equates to “100 to 200” across the entire country. Once opened, the vaccinodromes will aim to give 1,000 to 2,000 vaccines per day. At present, the average number of doses given at vaccination centres is around 500 per week. Image: Stade de France, courtesy of Zakarie Faibis, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Musicians in Montauban, a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France, performed a public concert last weekend for the first time in months. But don’t worry, no Covid-19 restrictions were broken because the musicians performed from open windows in the centre of the town. The Fenêtres musicales (Musical windows) event took place on Sunday, March 21. Musicians across the town opened windows in central buildings, and played their instruments for passing members of the public. Hugo Schmitt, saxophonist at the Orchestre de la Cité at Ingres, told FranceInfo: “After a year without any concerts, it’s a real relief. To be able to play in the centre of Montauban, in beautiful apartments next to open windows, especially during this period, which has been hard for us as artists, it’s really a gift.” Around 20 musicians played via open windows for the event, with the “concert” lasting around 90 minutes. A small crowd also gathered to listen to three singers and a pianist lay a rendition of Mozart’s Nocturnes. One of the singers, Eugenie Berrocq, said: “Because we can’t go to theatres, and we can’t do this in a more conventional or traditional way, we have to reinvent ourselves. There are many artists who have done this, and I think it’s a very good idea to do it in this way.” One Montauban resident said: “We’ve been without culture for a year now, it’s starting to get a bit long. So this kind of initiative is great.” Another said: “It’s nice, it does you good to watch people playing. We’ve missed it a bit.” *Image courtesy of FranceInfo
The French Government has confirmed a three-step plan to open restaurants, although no firm date has been set for when it will begin. Following a meeting between hospitality representatives and government ministers on March 16, Didier Chenet, president of hospitality union GNI, told news source FranceInfo the date for reopening was dependent on two factors: “The daily number of Covid cases and the number of people vaccinated”. Since the second national lockdown was imposed more than four months ago on October 29, 2020, restaurants and cafes have been closed in France. The government’s initial plan was to reopen such establishment on January 20, 2021, but this was delayed indefinitely as daily Covid-19 cases remained high and health experts feared a spike could occur as a result of Christmas and New Year celebrations. The three-stage plan, Mr Chenet said, would begin with the opening of hotels for breakfast and dinner. Next would be terraces and interiors in cafes and restaurants, including hotel restaurants, with a 50% capacity limit. Finally, “In the third phase establishments would be fully open, with health protocols in place,” he said. Mr Chenet also revealed that each phase would last four weeks.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain have joined the list of countries to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The countries took the decision after reports have arisen of dangerous blood clots in some recipients. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and European regulators have said there is no evidence the vaccine is to blame. The AstraZeneca shot is one of three vaccines currently in use in Europe. Nevertheless, the blood clot concerns and subsequent cessation of its use represents another setback for the EU’s vaccination drive – which has already been slow off the mark compared to similar campaigns in the United Kingdom and the United States. The EU’s drug regulatory agency has called a meeting for this week to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca vaccine and decide how to proceed. All this comes as much of Europe tightens restrictions on schools and businesses as Covid-19 cases surge. In Germany, the decision to halt the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine was taken following advice from the country’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute. It called for further investigation after blood clots were found in the brains of seven people who had been vaccinated. In response to the situation, Astrazeneca published a press release offering ‘reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on clear scientific evidence’.
France is working on a digital health pass to allow people to resume leisure activities and travel, a French Government spokesperson said on Wednesday. Speaking after a recent cabinet meeting, Gabriel Attal told reporters that the digital health passes would allow people to resume certain leisure activities in France, such as going to museums, restaurants, sports centres and travelling overseas, in the coming months. The idea is also being considered at a European level to facilitate travel between different countries in Europe and possibly beyond. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said introducing vaccine passports would be unfair because they would discriminate against certain groups, such as the young, in particular, who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. However, Macron said he is in favor of a “health pass” that would also include whether a person has antibodies from getting COVID-19 or the results of a negative test, and could be used to get access to restaurants or other venues. [Related reading: France eyes easing of COVID-19 restrictions from next month]
France is gearing up for a possible easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from mid-April, as vaccines, to date, are proving effective at lowering infection rates. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that while the nation is still facing hard times, “For the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.” Attal said vaccinated groups (mainly the elderly) are witnessing falling infection rates, which, he said, is a sign that the country’s vaccination program is working and should be sped up. "It is neither a distant nor uncertain horizon - it is an horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope maybe from mid-April, and we are preparing for it. "The president (Emmanuel Macron) asked us to submit proposals that could allow for a cautious re-opening of the country soon,” he said. Attal added that the goal of vaccinating the most fragile was to reduce hospitalizations and safeguard the nation’s health care system, which is key to easing restrictions. Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will retain its current measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks. Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants, museums, sports and music venues. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
People in France aged over 65 with existing health problems will be allowed to be given the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after the French Government reversed its policy. When the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by European Union regulators, the French Government said it should only be given to eligible people under 65 because data from trials in older age groups was limited. The AstraZeneca vaccine will now be offered to people up to the age of 74. However, the shot has been hit by a slow rollout and a lack of trust. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday: "Anybody aged 50 or over who is affected by co-morbidities can get the AstraZeneca vaccine, including those between 65 and 74." The announcement has the potential to affect more than two million people. British health authorities released new data on Monday that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced hospitalization from COVID-19 by more than 80%. The vaccine is widely used in the UK but has missed delivery targets in the EU. People aged 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only, Veran said. Meanwhile, Germany still hasn’t cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s. This has led to fewer people stepping up for the shot and several doses being wasted. Image courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused telehealth to become a bigger economic development concern among local areas. That’s one of the key findings of new research by broadband industry analyst Craig Settles. According to Settles’ Broadband, Local Economies, & the Age of Covid survey -- which polled 200 professionals from economic development departments within local and state governments and economic development agencies across the United States – 40% of respondents indicated that telehealth can have a “measurable impact” on their local economy in terms of attracting medical professionals and reducing unnecessary ER visits. When the same survey was conducted two years ago (in 2019), only about 25% of respondents said the same about telehealth’s potential impact on the medical workforce and ER visits. Moreover, more respondents this year said telehealth can help more mental health services remain local, as well as keep senior citizens living at home longer. Settles says these findings suggest there is money to be made and saved by boosting telehealth capabilities. Specifically, he sees a lot of potential value in local telehealth radiology programs, citing the $1.8 million saved over 10 years by a radiology practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “There are serious dollars and cents to be had if you can do this locally, because people don’t have to go all the way to China to get their X-rays, all the various MRIs and so forth,” Settles said. “The forward-thinking communities, especially if they’re a rural area, I would look at starting a radiology practice because there’s money to be made there locally. Obviously, you can’t do this without broadband, but if you’re one of these cities building the network, that should be a main consideration for revenue.”
A single dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine reduces a person’s risk of infection by 72%, a new study has revealed. According to Public Health England (PHE), the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine "provides high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease.” PHE's Siren Study, which involved healthcare workers aged under 65, found that one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 72% after three weeks. Two doses of the vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 85%. This high level of protection also includes the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first identified in the UK in December. For the study, health workers were tested for Covid-19 infection every two weeks using PCR tests and twice a week with lateral flow tests. As Dr. Susan Hopkins, strategic response director at PHE, explained, "there was a lot of asymptomatic testing.” "Overall we are seeing a really strong effect to reducing any infection: asymptomatic and symptomatic," Hopkins said during a press conference held by the UK's Science Media Centre on Monday. Promising early data has also shown that people who are vaccinated and subsequently catch Covid-19 are far less likely to die of, or be hospitalized with, the virus. For example, people over the age of 80 who were infected after being vaccinated were 41% less likely to be hospitalized with the virus and 57% less likely to die of it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday gave two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine the green light to be used for emergency use, listing them on its Emergency Use Listing (EUL), paving the way for them to be rolled out globally through COVAX. The vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India. WHO’s EUL assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for COVAX Facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines. “Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. ‘But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things – a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review.” Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was listed for emergency use by WHO on 31 December 2020.
Europe's oldest living person has survived COVID-19 after testing positive just weeks before her 117th birthday. Sister André, a French nun who was born in 1904, tested positive in the retirement home where she lives in Toulon, southern France, on January 16, according to the home’s communications director, David Tavella. André, who was born Lucille Randon, showed no symptoms from the virus and didn’t even know she was infected until she received her positive test. Despite no visitors being allowed because of strict COVID protocols, André is preparing to celebrate her 117th birthday today, Thursday 11th February. She will reportedly receive video messages from her family and the local mayor, as well as taking part in a video Mass, Tavella said. André's birthday meal will feature her favorites: foie gras, baked Alaska and a glass of red wine, Tavella added. Remarkably, André has lived through two world wars, as well as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that infected around 500 million people. While Andre is the oldest living person in France today, she’s not the oldest in the world. That crown is held by Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman who was born in 1903, according to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG). * Image credit Gérard Julien/AFP/Getty Images