While the majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover within 3-4 weeks following infection, there are some who experience lingering symptoms for months afterwards. These symptoms, which can include shortness of breath, loss of smell and taste, brain fog, headaches and fatigue, are referred to collectively as 'long Covid'. Now, research has shown that this so-called long Covid seems to more severely impact women's cardiovascular and lung function than men. According to researchers at Indiana University, Bloomington, women with COVID-19 who had mild-to-moderate illness during the acute phase showed a slower decline in their heart rate after the 6-minute walk test than the participants in the control group. This difference was more pronounced in women actively experiencing long COVID symptoms. Study lead author, Dr. Stephen Carter, a professor at Indiana University, said: “A puzzling feature of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome is the variable presentation of symptoms that appear to be independent of initial illness severity. The present work shows even those with mild-to-moderate initial symptoms can be affected with underlying cardiac-related irregularities with the potential to affect exercise tolerance and/or activities of daily living.” “It’s also plausible that lingering symptoms, particularly muscle/joint pain and/or shortness of breath, may trigger a maladaptive pattern that accelerates systemic deconditioning. However, further research is needed.” The study appears in the journal Experimental Physiology. *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says nearly half of American adults are living with high blood pressure (hypertension). Left untreated, this hypertension can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Individuals with hypertension are often advised to reduce their salt intake, as doing so can help reduce blood pressure levels. Now, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University has decided to investigate the health effects of herbs and spices, particularly whether they can benefit people with hypertension. The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to look at the effect of longer-term consumption of herbs and spices on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They found that a higher level of herbs and spices in food reduced 24-hour blood pressure readings. The findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Speaking to Medical News Today, Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Indeed, the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices in an average Western diet were surprising to me. “We [already know] about the effects of many lifestyle factors, especially dietary factors, that can increase blood pressure — such as sodium, alcohol, and caffeine — and others that can decrease blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, […] weight loss, physical activity, and some vitamins, including folate and vitamin D when intake is low, but the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices are new!” *Image by monicore from Pixabay
Since October 15, people in France have not been able to use supervised self-tests to obtain a Covid health pass. But the French government has now suspended this decree, effectively opening the door for supervised self-tests to be used for health pass purposes. Covid tests became payable on October 15 and the government said that unvaccinated people would no longer be allowed to carry out a self-test under the supervision of a health professional in order to obtain a health pass. At the time, the Conseil d’État (Council of State) said “this form of test had only been provided in order to avoid any difficulties with accessing PCR or antigen tests as the health pass was being implemented. “These difficulties did not materialise and there is no risk of them appearing now.” On October 29, the Conseil d’État suspended this decree, reintroducing the possibility of obtaining a health pass through a negative self-administered test. So instead of paying around €25-€30 for a pharmacist or other professional to carry out the procedure, individuals can buy a self-test for around €5. Government information service service-public.fr now says people can acquire a temporary health pass by presenting “proof of a negative PCR, antigen or self-test carried out under the supervision of a health professional within the last 72 hours.” *Image by Bastian Riccardi from Pixabay
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 French medtech start-up that is developing the world’s first-ever open-stent heart valve has secured €2.5m in funding following a seed financing round. Open Stent Solution (OSS) says the funding will support the development of its ribbon-shaped stented mitral valve for transcatheter replacement. OSS says its breakthrough device is the first-ever open-stent heart valve and the only device bearing the promise to implant large size mitral valves through small delivery systems, comparable in size to TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). The OSS valve components are attached to a ribbon-shaped open stent, which reduces the overall device’s size when loaded onto a delivery system, compared to conventional, radially expanding devices. Once implanted, the OSS heart valve gets locked, forming a circular shape, with stable radial anchoring force exactly like balloon expandable devices. Doctor Doron Carmi, senior cardiac surgeon, founder and CEO of Open Stent Solution, said: “We are grateful to our investors for their trust and for their support to our venture. The financing enables us to proceed to concept freeze for our unique minimally invasive solution. In few years from now, we aim to offer an effective transfemoral solution to millions of patients with failed mitral valves who cannot access treatment today.” *Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the state will fund psychology appointments in the country starting next year. Speaking about the policy on Tuesday, President Macron acknowledged the psychological impact of government Covid restrictions, as well as past failures to make mental health a priority. President Macron announced several measures during a conference with professionals who work in the sector. As the coronavirus proliferated across France, “we didn't want to see the importance of mental health, and we got hit in the face with the fact that health is all-encompassing,” Macron said. “The consequences of the pandemic are just as tangible in mental health” as in physical health. He highlighted a spike in the number of children seeking psychological treatment, as well as a growing number of attempted suicides, notably among teenagers. According to President Macron, around 20% of French people suffer from depression, Under the new plans, free therapy sessions for children and young adults -- which were announced earlier this year -- will be extended to everyone with a doctor’s prescription. Psychiatric treatment is already largely reimbursed by the state. State healthcare systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries already fund therapy sessions. French health professionals say a national effort to improve access is long overdue, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has caused and aggravated psychological distress. *Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
A new home kit that can be used to restart someone’s heart following a heart attack could reduce the number of deaths in France from cardiac arrest by 50,000 each year. Paris-based Lifeaz has seen demand for its defibrillators for the home and office soar in the first seven months since its launch. The firm hopes its machines, which deliver electric shocks to the heart, will help prevent heart attack deaths in France by enabling people to restart a heart in the crucial first four minutes of an attack. Célia Rich, the firm’s chief training adviser, said: “In places like Seattle in the United States, where there are lots of defibrillators, the chances of surviving a big heart attack are 60% to 70%, while in France they are just 5%." Lifeaz’s founder, Johann Kalchman, previously worked for a business specialising in pacemakers. This is where he became enlightened about the need to improve heart attack victims’ chances in France. It’s estimated that 80% of heart attacks occur at home, but a lack of first aid training and fear of intervening mean people often wait the 10 to 15 minutes it takes for emergency services to arrive without helping. “Our machines are designed to make things as easy as possible,” said Ms Rich. “Once they are opened, you push a button to choose between French or English and then just follow the voice instructions and pictures. “After the shock treatment, it guides people on how to give cardiac massage until the victim recovers consciousness.” The defibrillators are designed and made in France and individuals can buy them for €990, or rent them for €29.90 per month. The price is slightly higher for businesses, but includes staff training. *Image by Pexels 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
For stroke patients, receiving treatment as soon as possible is vital. The shorter time between the stroke and treatment, the less chance there is of serious damage to the patient’s brain. That’s why fast diagnosis of a stroke is so important for the patient’s overall prognosis. But vascular neurologists, the clinicians most called upon to check stroke patients, are often in short supply and high demand. As a result, they cannot always see every suspected stroke patient as quickly as perhaps liked. The answer has been to utilise telemedicine and this is something neurologists have been doing for more than three decades. By taking advantage of audio-visual platforms, neurologists can assess suspected stroke patients quickly. If the patient is displaying signs of a stroke, they can be given life-saving treatment, consisting of administering tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot-dissolving drug first developed for treating heart attacks, which was then fine-tuned for strokes in the early 1990s. The success of tPA, however, lies in administering it as quickly as possible, to counter the effect of blood loss to the brain. A 2016 study highlights the impact of telehealth for stroke patients. According to Kaiser Permanente’s study, involving more than 2,500 patients treated for stroke symptoms between 2013 and 2015 in its 14-hospital network in southern California, a 75% increase was witnessed in the timely use of tPA after a telehealth consult. Patients receiving a telehealth consult were given a diagnostic imaging test 12 minutes sooner than those who didn’t, and tPA was administered 11 minutes sooner. Overall, the door-to-needle time was reduced to less than an hour. *Image by Gerd Altmann 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
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
Thousands of patients with a range of different ailments are due to participate in medical cannabis trials in January next year. Up to 3,000 individuals with illnesses such as epilepsy, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy side-effects, as well as those on palliative care will be trialled with medical cannabis, which will be provided in oil form for oral administration, or as dried leaves for inhalation. Smoking will not be allowed because of its ill health effects. Medical cannabis will only be prescribed “as a last resort” and the trial patients will be put forward by a specialist, neurologist or pain control doctor. Hospitals across France will take part. The Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (ANSM) delayed the start of the trial until January 2021 so that a national electronic patient monitoring and support network could be set up. The trial was also pushed back while the ANSM found suitable suppliers. ANSM said the purpose of the trial is not to establish how effective medical cannabis is for treating certain conditions, but rather to gauge supply and follow-up. The benefits of medical cannabis are well known and highlighted by the fact its name has been changed from “therapeutic cannabis”, which implied general benefits, to “medical cannabis”. *Image by NickyPe 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.”
France is sending America a miniature Statue of Liberty as a gift to commemorate the latter’s Independence Day this July. The bronze statue, nicknamed the "little sister," stands just under 10 feet tall, one-sixteenth the size of the original that stands on Liberty Island. It was loaded into a special container at the National Museum of Arts and Crafts (CNAM) in central Paris on Monday during a special ceremony. The miniature replica of the world-famous statue has been installed since 2011 in the museum's garden. It will be erected on Ellis Island, just across the water from the original, from July 1 to July 5. "The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world," said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM. "We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship." The replica bears the same neoclassic design as the original in New York, which represents the Roman goddess Libertas and stands 151 feet tall atop a giant pedestal. She is imbued with symbolism: the crown with seven spikes, representing sun rays extending out to the world; a tablet inscribed with America's date of independence in Roman numerals; and broken chains and shackles lying at its left foot, signifying the abolition of slavery in the United States. The original Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States back in 1886. *Image: The original Statue of Liberty, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Last year, makeshift terraces sprang up on many cafes across Paris, allowing COVID-wary patrons to be served outdoors. Now, city hall has announced these ‘Covid terraces’ will become a permanent fixture in the French capital this summer. In response to the impact of the pandemic on beleaguered restaurant and café owners who were no longer allowed to serve indoors, the city of Paris turned over thousands of parking spaces to enable establishments to continue serving drinks and food outdoors. Many establishment owners invested in high-quality structures in the spaces, which are still usable today. Terraces will have to remain without closed walls and plants and other greenery will be encouraged. "Roofs, tarps, reception tents, wooden pallets and advertising will be prohibited," the deputy mayor in charge of commerce, Olivia Polski, told AFP. There will also be a requirement for them to shut down by 10:00pm, so that local residents won’t be disturbed by any noise. The city will hold an annual contest for the most attractive designs, a move clearly aimed at encouraging aesthetically pleasing structures. Outdoor seating can also be extended on adjacent squares and sidewalks, and also in front of neighbouring businesses, providing they give approval. No heating or music systems will be allowed, and Polski said the city would step up deployments of specially developed "Meduse" microphones for pinpointing the sources of noise pollution across the city. Outdoor drinking and dining resumed across France last month as France emerged from its third wave of coronavirus cases, a huge relief for restaurants and bars closed since last October. On Wednesday, restaurants and cafés will be allowed to start serving indoors and the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 11:00 pm, which is expected to further swell the summer sidewalk crowds. *Image: Lucas BARIOULET AFP/File
One of Paris’ overlooked treasures, Musée Carnavalet, is ready to welcome visitors once more after being closed for five years. Dedicated to the history of the French capital, Musée Carnavalet first opened in 1888 and is the oldest city of Paris museum. But its collection grew so large that curators were struggling to display everything in a coherent fashion. That’s why the decision was taken to close the museum in 2016 and undertake a €55 million renovation project. From May 29, 2021, visitors will once again be able to frequent this hidden gem, which occupies two grand buildings dating back to the Renaissance in Paris’ Marais district. Inside, visitors will find an eclectic mix of Paris-related artefacts and curiosities, including Marie Antoinette's belongings, Marcel Proust's furniture, Renoir paintings, and Gallo-Roman ruins. There’s even more than 30 period rooms from stately homes across Paris that have been reconstructed in all their finery. Lifts and ramps have been installed throughout the building as part of the renovations to improve accessibility, while digital displays are designed to help bring the museum into the 21st-century. Discover more on the official Musée Carnavalet website. *Image: Musée Carnavalet, Paris 2008, courtesy of Francisco Anzola and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
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
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
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
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.
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.”
Last Saturday, February 6, France reported both a fall in new COVID-19 infections and in the number of patients being treated in hospital. The country registered 20,586 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, down from 22,139 the previous day and marking the third straight daily fall. Meanwhile, hospitals across the country were treating 27,369 people for the disease, down 245 from the previous day, marking the fourth consecutive daily fall. The fall in numbers comes as France continues with its COVID-19 vaccination programme, with 1.86 million people now having received their first dose. Almost a quarter of a million people (247,260) have also received their second dose. At present, France has three vaccines approved for use: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, the latest to be received. The country has taken delivery of 273,600 AstraZeneca, according to the health ministry, with a second batch of 304,800 doses scheduled to be delivered this week. The initial AstraZeneca shots were prioritized for health personnel under 65, with the first injections taking place over the weekend. While the arrival of the AstraZeneca shot will help France accelerate its vaccination programme, the quantities that are expected to be delivered are likely to be less than first thought. Nevertheless, with a third approved vaccine and COVID numbers falling, pressure on the French health system is easing day by day.
Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, has said he wants to permanently expand access to telemedicine services across the state, noting that they benefit both patients and doctors. Speaking during his State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Abbott said: “We should seize the opportunity this session to permanently expand telemedicine so that every Texan in every region of the state can benefit.” Telemedicine services in Texas have surged since the start of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But if Gov. Abbott wants to maintain telemedicine access and coverage in Texas beyond the pandemic, he will need the help of the Texas Legislature, Congress, and private insurance providers. Last March, Gov. Abbott eased regulations regarding the types of health care services that can be offered over the phone or through video calls. He also issued an emergency rule so that the Texas Dept. of Insurance (TDI) could compensate healthcare providers for telemedicine consultations at the same rate as in-person visits. However, this equalized compensation only applied to patients covered by state-regulated insurance plans, like those purchased through HealthCare.gov, which make up only 15% of plans in Texas, according to TDI. Gov. Abbott also highlighted how critical telemedicine services have been in enabling Texans to get needed health services this past year.
Against expectations, France has resisted imposing a nationwide lockdown, choosing to introduce new Covid-19 border restrictions instead. Under the new restrictions, all non-essential travel from outside the EU has been banned and testing requirements for travellers from within the EU have been tightened. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said France's night curfew would also be more tightly enforced and large shopping centres would close. It had been expected that French President Emmanuel Macron would impose a third national lockdown to contain Covid-19. However, the French premiere opted to tighten existing restrictions on travel and shopping instead. The move sees France following a different path than its two biggest neighbours Britain and Germany, at a time when the more contagious UK variant of the disease is spreading rapidly across Europe. [Related reading: Moderna says its vaccine will work against new COVID variants] "Everything suggests that a new wave could occur because of the variant, but perhaps we can avoid it thanks to the measures that we decided early and that the French people are respecting," Health Minister Olivier Veran told the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper on Sunday. Despite the news of tighter border restrictions, France Surgery’s proprietary telehealth platforms remain open and accessible to all of our international clients, one of the main benefits of remote healthcare.
Changes to a person’s tongue, hands or the soles of their feet could provide an early indication that they are infected with Covid-19, Spanish researchers say. In a study presented on Tuesday, the researchers said that among 666 patients with Covid-19 at Madrid’s IFEMA field hospital set up during the first wave of the pandemic, one in four patients said they had noticed changes to their tongue. Four out of 10 also noticed unusual signs on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet. The study was carried out in April by healthcare professionals from Madrid’s La Paz hospital and primary care services. The findings were published in the British Journal of Dermatology in the form of a “research letter” in September. Some patients said they experienced swelling of their tongues and the appearance of patches – something which has now been dubbed ‘Covid tongue’. This was also associated with a loss of taste. Another symptom was a burning sensation and redness on the palms or soles of the feet, which in some cases was also followed by the appearance of small blemishes. “Almost half of patients with mild‐to‐moderate Covid‐19 admitted in a field‐hospital during a two‐week period showed mucocutaneous findings,” the researchers said. “The oral cavity was frequently involved and deserves specific examination under appropriate circumstances to avoid contagion risk.”
Despite Covid-19-related lockdowns continuing in many countries across the world, the Michelin Guide has awarded its coveted stars for 2021 — and France (including Monaco) now has more three-star establishments than any other country. Originally due to be announced at a lavish gala ceremony in Cognac, southwest France, the Michelin awards were broadcast via Facebook on Monday from the Jules Vernes restaurant (one star) on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Social distancing rules forced Michelin to call off the event in Cognac, which would have been the first time the awards were held outside Paris. Ahead of this year’s awards, Michelin had promised that no three-star restaurants would be demoted as the global pandemic continues, causing many establishments to remain closed or switch to take-aways and deliveries. One of the main talking points of this year’s awards was ONA, which stands for Origine Non Animale or Non-Animal Origin. The vegan restaurant in Ares near Bordeaux, which serves only plant-based foods, became the first of its kind in the country to be awarded a Michelin star. Vegan restaurants in the US, Germany and Spain have already received Michelin stars in recent years. ONA was also awarded a green star for its strong ethical and sustainable practices.
With Covid-19 vaccines now being rolled out in many countries across the world, a number of tech giants are teaming up to help facilitate the return to "normal". A coalition known as the Vaccine Credential Initiative — which boasts healthcare and tech leaders, including Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, Cerner, Cigna's Evernorth, and the Mayo Clinic (among others) in its ranks — wants to ensure that everyone has access to a secure, digital record of their Covid-19 vaccination. This kind of digital vaccine passport, which can be stored in people's smartphones, could be used for everything from airline travel to entering concert venues. The coalition has even considered those without smartphones. Such individuals will be given a printable QR code containing their record that can be scanned wherever they go. "Just as Covid-19 does not discriminate based on socio-economic status, we must ensure that convenient access to immunization records crosses the digital divide," Brian Anderson, chief digital health physician at non-profit research organization MITRE, a member of the coalition, said in a statement. With such vaccine passports in place, a healthy and safe return to work, school, travel and life in general can be accelerated.
Despite more than 40 countries recently closing their borders to travellers from the UK, cases of the new variant Covid-19 virus have been confirmed in several European countries, including Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All of the confirmed cases were linked to people who had arrived from the UK. The revelations take the total number of new countries impacted by the new variant to 15, with South Korea the latest nation to announce a confirmed case. According to Reuters, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCPA) found traces of the United Kingdom (UK) variant in three individuals from London who entered South Korea on December 22. Meanwhile, both Canada and Japan have also announced that they have found traces of the new Covid-19 strain in their countries. What is most alarming about Canada’s announcement is that the individual in which the new variant was discovered has no known travel history and exposure or high-risk contact. Scientists from the Independent Sage group have urged all regions of England to be placed under tier 4 restrictions, meaning that non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues cannot operate. With evidence emerging that the new variant appears to be particularly infectious among children, teaching unions have urged for schools to remain closed. Speaking about the new variant, Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “If this new variant is behind the increase in this age group, then that is a big worry.”
More than 40 countries have banned individuals arriving from the United Kingdom due to concerns about a new variant of coronavirus. France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours, which meant no lorries or ferries could leave from Dover. Meanwhile, flights from the UK have either been suspended or are in the process of being suspended to countries across the world, including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. The UK’s postal service, Royal Mail, has also temporarily suspended all services to mainland Europe, due to the "current restrictions around air, road, ferry and train movements from the UK". UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation, saying that both sides wanted to resolve "these problems as fast as possible". The ban on UK arrivals came about after a new strain of coronavirus – which is reportedly 70% more transmissible – has been spreading across London and south-east England. However, health officials have said there is no evidence that this new variant is more deadly or would react differently to vaccines. French Europe Minister Clément Beaune is expected to announce today what measures were being introduced "after this phase of emergency and harsh precaution that we had to take". Any measures, he said, would come into effect from Wednesday. [Related reading: France lifts lockdown, opens borders for Covid-safe countries]
The United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have started national Covid-19 vaccine rollouts, as the pandemic situation in each country continues to worsen. In the United States, the first batches of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine left a Michigan manufacturing plant on Sunday bound for 150 locations across the country. The vaccine will now be given to the most vulnerable Americans, including frontline health workers and long-term care home residents. The United States is slowly approaching the once unthinkable threshold of 300,000 Covid-related deaths. Meanwhile, the UK witnessed its first Covid vaccination last week. It was given to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, with up to four million more expected to follow by the end of December. The UK made history earlier this month when it became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use. The Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the UK comes as the capital, London, witnesses a surge in cases. As a result, London and several other areas in the south-east will this week enter the toughest coronavirus restrictions (tier 3) in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus and reduce infection numbers. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — enough to vaccinate 20 million people — with the first 800,000 doses coming from Pfizer's facilities in Belgium to the UK this week.
The Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on many areas of our lives, some more obvious than others. To highlight just how wide-ranging the effects of pandemic have been, the World Economic Forum has compiled a list of five major trends that are being accelerated by the Covid-19. Here are the trends Covid has accelerated, according to the World Economic Forum: 1. Increased screen time We’re all spending more time in front of screens (TVs, computers, smartphones). In fact, our use of screens has risen considerably, with 44% of people under the age of 18 now reporting four hours or more of screen time per day (up from 21% prior to the pandemic). 2. A big consumer shake-up Physical buying is now as “frictionless” as possible and online shopping has become as nimble as possible. Cashierless checkouts and contactless payment means are fast becoming the norm in-store, while eCommerce companies (especially Amazon) have reported a surge in sales. 3. Peak globalization Globalization has plateaued since the financial crisis and the Covid pandemic seems to be the final nail in its coffin. 4. A broadening wealth gap Billionaires are now worth more than ever and inequality is growing. Those in the top 50% wealth bracket have witnessed their fortunes growing, while those in the bottom 50 have seen stagnation. 5. The rise of the flexible workplace In 2019, more than half of companies did not have flexible working arrangements or the capabilities to allow staff to work flexibly. Fast-forward to today and 82% of business leaders say they intend to permit remote working some of the time going forward.
Telehealth is probably not the first thing you think of when talking about ways of assessing possible stroke patients in an emergency. But Norther Ireland has just approved exactly such a system, highlighting the traction that telehealth solutions are garnering today. The solution, provided by Health Services Limited (HSL), enables clinicians and patients to have video consultations, with the ultimate goal being to make a diagnosis. Patients still need to visit an A&E department, but when they do the emergency clinicians who receive them can use the telehealth solution to get expert treatment advice remotely from stroke consultants. The solution can be used on tablets, smartphones and laptops, making it different to other virtual stroke assessment tools in the market that rely on external systems to function, the company claims. It has everything built-in that a stroke consultant needs to make an initial diagnosis of the stroke patient. The app also has the functionality to save the patient’s results in their electronic care record. [Related reading: The benefits of electronic health records] Perhaps the biggest benefit of the telehealth solution is that it enables stroke consultants to assess a patient’s condition as soon as possible and relay timely, potentially life-saving advice to their emergency room counterparts. The stroke assessment telehealth solution is already in place in hospitals across Northern Ireland the United Kingdom.
The US is entering its annual cold and flu season, but this year there’s the added danger of Covid-19 to contend with. Healthcare providers often struggle to meet the needs of their patients at this time of year, mainly because of increased footfall at their facilities. Add to this the strict social distancing guidelines that are in place across the world and the difficulty of the situation becomes clear. The good news is that more and more care providers are turning to telehealth solutions to help alleviate the flu season rush, as well as adhere to social distancing rules. With telehealth, doctors and physicians can carry out consultations with patients without either having to travel. When diagnosing a patient with the flu, physicians look for the two most common symptoms: a cough and fever. At the height of the flu season, almost every patient presenting with these symptoms will have the flu, which often means an in-person consultation is not necessary in the first instance. Care providers can quickly assess a patient’s symptoms via a virtual consultation and arrange to have a prescription sent to them, saving time and money. While every patient’s case is unique, the ability of telehealth to enable physicians to carry out initial consultations for individuals with flu-like symptoms remotely means the facility’s resources are not impacted. This frees up vital appointment slots for those who need them most and reduces wait times, all the while eliminating the chances of someone contracting Covid-19 or spreading flu while out of their house. If you’d like to find out more about the telehealth services provided by France Surgery, please get in touch.
In a previous blog — What is telehealth?— we introduced you to telehealth and explained how it has revolutionized healthcare across the world, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. But while telehealth has proven itself as a very worthy asset for enabling rural communities and those who cannot easily travel to access healthcare, what about when a patient is in a more critical condition and requires intensive care? Well, believe it or not, there are actually telehealth-ICU solutions out there for this very purpose. In a nutshell, a tele-ICU enables remote clinicians to interact with bedside staff to consult on a patient’s care. One centralized care team can manage a large number of ICU locations across many different locations to exchange health information in real time. Using a host of technologies, including A/V conferencing and real-time data streams of patient information from multiple sensors and interfaces, a clinician working from a care center hundreds of miles away can effectively and rapidly care for a patient no matter what time of day or night it is. As highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, anything that minimizes infection risk and the need for PPE, while still allowing clinicians to care for patients is extremely advantageous. While a tele-ICU is a supplement, not a replacement, to the on-site care team, when remote and bedside teams are able to collaborate seamlessly, the partnership elevates bot care and outcomes.
Silicon Valley tech giant Nvidia, best known for designing graphics processing units for the gaming and professional markets, is looking to use its experience to benefit the telehealth space. Researchers at the company are working on developing an automated speech recognition and natural language processing technology, which would be able to transcribe and organize information from a telemedicine visit for both patient and clinicians. What separates the tool from other offerings in the market is that it is specifically trained to understand clinical and biomedical language. Nvidia says the new tool will enable patients to leave telehealth visits with a lot more information and notes than they do currently. While the Nvidia tool’s initial focus will be telehealth transcription, the company says its uses could extend to other medical applications. Speaking about the tool, Hoo-Chang Shin, research scientist at NVIDIA, told MobiHealthNews: “This particular one was trained on large biomedical text and then a smaller set of clinical text ... but if we had a large amount of clinical notes like radiologist reports then the language processing trained on them would be kick-ass on recognizing radiologists reports. “It would be so much better at transcribing radiologist reports and also we have even more recognition of named entities or disease names, or possibly planned treatments, and so on.”