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France’s Covid-19 health pass success encourages more countries to adopt similar initiatives

07/09/2021

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

New Covid-19 treatments to be made available in France later this year

26/08/2021

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 

The French doctor helping COVID-19 patients smell once more

03/08/2021

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

French parliament approves law requiring health passes for restaurants, travel from August

27/07/2021

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.

‘Pingdemic’ causes one in five Brits to turn off health service COVID tracing app

22/07/2021

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

France broadens use of COVID-19 health pass, lowers fines

20/07/2021

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: How did it get its name and why is it celebrated?

15/07/2021

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

Teledentistry market set to witness incredible growth

22/06/2021

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

Children aged 12 can now get a COVID vaccine in France

16/06/2021

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 miniature Statue of Liberty to the US for Independence Day

10/06/2021

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.

Telemedicine to save healthcare industry $21bn globally by 2025

11/05/2021

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 grants citizenship to more than 2000 foreign workers for their help with Covid-19

06/05/2021

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

Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19

05/05/2021

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

UK to turn NHS health app into Covid-19 vaccine passport

29/04/2021

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 will allow vaccinated tourists to enter in May

20/04/2021

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

Telehealth consultations via drone could soon be real

31/03/2021

Telehealth services have really come into their own during the coronavirus pandemic, offering a way for patients and clinicians to have consultations without the need for a face-to-face meeting. Now, a group of inventors at the University of Cincinnati (UC) want to take telehealth consultations to another level by facilitating them to be performed via drone. The technology aims to fill the gap in telehealth delivery among those who do not own or have access to the devices, such as smartphones, computers and internet connectivity, that are required for telehealth consultations. Inventors Victoria Wangia-Anderson, Manish Kumar, Seung-Yeon Lee and Debi Sampsel from three colleges at UC collaborated to develop a semi-autonomous prototype that can be dispatched right to people’s homes. The drones are capable of carrying certain medical equipment and supplies, but remain agile enough to navigate the tight spaces found in homes. A variety of health assessments can be conducted using the telehealth drones, including taking temperatures and measuring oxygen levels. The drone kits also include patient-friendly devices, and the clinician will be able to instruct patients on how to use them. Patients who require assistance can also seek help from family or other caregivers during the drone sessions. Speaking about the telehealth drones, Debi Sampsel, director of telehealth at UC’s College of Nursing, said: “We can perform all kinds of functions: chronic disease management, post-operative care monitoring, health coaching and consultations,” she said. “And in the health care arena, there is no age limit. Telehealth services are useful from birth to death.” Find out more via the University of Cincinnati website. *Image courtesy of Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand for the University of Cincinnati

Covid-19: France looking to turn sports arenas into mass vaccination hubs known as ‘vaccinodromes’

25/03/2021

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 southern France hold concert for public via open windows

23/03/2021

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

French government confirms three-stage plan to open restaurants

18/03/2021

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 suspend AstraZeneca Covid vaccine amid blood clot concerns

17/03/2021

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 working on Covid-19 health pass – Government spokesperson

11/03/2021

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 eases ban on AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for over-65s

02/03/2021

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)

Telehealth can have a ‘measurable impact’ on local economies - survey

25/02/2021

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.”  

UK study finds one dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reduces risk of Covid-19 infection by 72%

23/02/2021

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.

Europe’s oldest living person survives COVID-19

11/02/2021

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

French COVID-19 cases ease as AstraZeneca inoculations start

09/02/2021

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.

France decides not to impose a third nationwide lockdown, opts for tighter border restrictions inste

02/02/2021

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.

Tech giants team up to help accelerate ‘Covid vaccine passports’

19/01/2021

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.

New Covid-19 variant now discovered in dozens of countries

29/12/2020

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.”    

France lifts lockdown, opens borders for Covid-safe countries

17/12/2020

After about a month and a half of complete lockdown, France’s Covid-19 restrictions are easing. While several types of venue will remain closed, the lockdown will be replaced with a nightly curfew, designed to avoid another spike of cases. French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, said that the health situation in France has improved considerably in recent weeks. However, he warned that the second wave of the pandemic had yet to end. “We have not yet reached the end of this 2nd wave, and we will not be, on December 15,” he said, explaining why a nightly curfew would be in place, and some venues prevented from reopening. In addition to the lockdown ending, France has also opened both international travel and travel to different regions of the country for non-essential reasons. This will allow tourists and second homeowners to once again visit France, as well as enabling people to travel to see relatives and friends in other parts of the country or other countries. In his speech announcing the new measures, PM Castex said that travel on the evening of December 24 will be allowed, but not for more than six adults at a time. He also reminded French citizens to respect the hygiene and social distancing guidelines. Under the new measures, travel between France and the following countries/territories is now permitted: - European Union - Andorra - Australia - The Holy See - Iceland - Japan - Liechtenstein - Monaco - New Zealand - Norway - Rwanda - San Marino - South Korea - Singapore - Switzerland - Thailand - United Kingdom

US and UK begin Covid-19 vaccine rollouts

15/12/2020

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.

5 major trends that are being accelerated by the Covid-19

08/12/2020

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.

Moderna announces vaccine that it says is 94.5% effective against Covid-19

17/11/2020

Moderna Inc. says its experimental vaccine is 94.5% effective in protecting people from Covid-19. The claims are based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial. Moderna is the second US company to announce a Covid-19 vaccine this week, following in the footsteps of Pfizer, whose own vaccine boasts a 90% efficacy rate. The Moderna announcement means that there could be at least two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States in December.As many as 60 million doses could be available by the end of 2020. Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines are both built using new technology known as messenger RNA or mRNA. Both represent powerful new ways to combat the ongoing pandemic, which has to date infected 54 million people and killed 1.3 million. Both vaccines also come at a time when Covid-19 cases appear to be surging – especially in the US where new cases of the virus are now totaling more than one hundred thousand per day. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s does not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute. This is particularly good news for countries like India with hot climates that would struggle to keep Pfizer’s vaccine at the required -70°C. Speaking about the firm's vaccine, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said: “Assuming we get an emergency use authorization, we'll be ready to ship through Warp Speed almost in hours. So it could start being distributed instantly.”

How telehealth reduces the risk of physician burnout

12/11/2020

The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has been monumental. But for physicians, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, it’s been particularly difficult. In addition to carrying out their already demanding day jobs, these individuals have had the added stress of coping with social distancing and a surge in patient numbers. It is, therefore, no wonder that a significant proportion of NHS staff in England are concerned about burnout. While it’s not often considered when talking about the benefits of telehealth, such solutions can actually help reduce the risk of physician burnout. Here’s how: - Telehealth helps improve physician work-life balance - Telehealth makes for more optimized schedules - Telehealth reduces the need to commute - Telehealth can help improve physician-patient relationships - Telehealth helps address healthcare coverage gaps, meaning physicians don’t after to overstretch themselves - Telehealth solutions allow physicians more time to look after themselves Healthcare provider burnout is a serious issue. If the very people whose jobs it is to look after us fall ill themselves, how will it bode for the rest of us? You can find out more about the telehealth services provided by us here at France Surgery by contacting us today.

Telehealth or face-to-face appointment? The pros & cons of each

27/10/2020

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of patients utilizing telehealth solutions has increased significantly. But with telehealth set to remain a mainstay of healthcare going forward, it begs the questions of what are the pros and cons of telehealth? We’ve listed some of each below to help you make an informed decision. Advantages of telehealth for patients: - Patients can typically get an appointment sooner - Appointments are carried out in the safety of a patient’s home or workplace — saving time and money on gas and parking - Telehealth allows elderly patients and those with reduced mobility, as well as people in rural locations, continued access healthcare services - Telehealth services are designed to be easy to adopt - Recent Medicare rule changes in the United States mean that people in more states are covered and can take advantage of telehealth services as part of their health plans - Telehealth services can often be used via a smartphone - A great way to satisfy post-surgical follow-ups Advantages of telehealth for healthcare providers: - More free time to help the neediest patients - Less overcrowding in doctor’s practices - Easier to implement social distancing guidelines Disadvantages of telehealth: - Not suitable for emergency situations (although tele-ICUs are a thing) - Not suitable for when a clinician needs to physically interact with a patient - Unsuitable for routine vaccinations - Not as intimate as a traditional face-to-face appointment If you’d like to find out more about the telehealth services provided by France Surgery, please get in touch.  

Many type 1 diabetes patients will continue to use telehealth even after pandemic - study

25/09/2020

Telehealth has helped patients living with chronic conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, continue their care management throughout the pandemic, new research shows. According to the global survey of patients living with type 1 diabetes, many moved to telehealth because in-person doctor visits were curtailed as a result of COVID lockdown restrictions. But even after the pandemic has passed, three-quarters say they will continue to take advantage of telehealth solutions to meet their care management needs. The information, presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), highlights the value of telehealth platforms in maintaining care management during times of unprecedented disruption to daily life. Furthermore, many patients with chronic conditions will have foregone check-ups throughout the pandemic for fear of becoming infected or adding an extra burden to healthcare providers. Telehealth has a significant role to play hear by helping these individuals re-establish their care routines and get the treatment they require. The study conducted by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland and supported by Novo Nordisk, involving more than 7,000 people in 89 countries, is published in in the journal Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism. “The results … demonstrate that a large number of people living with type 1 diabetes have rapidly adopted telemedicine or plan to in the near future and that this has generally been perceived positively,” the researchers concluded in the study.

Ohio Medicaid seeking to make telehealth expansion permanent

03/09/2020

Officials at the Ohio Department of Medicaid are seeking to make expanded telehealth coverage — which was put in place in March to address the coronavirus pandemic — permanent. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, telehealth options for more than three million people living in Ohio were expanded to help cover their healthcare needs. Prior to the expansion, Ohio’s telehealth services saw less than 1,000 claims from providers per month for physical health services, and 4,000 for mental health services. Since the pandemic hit in March, almost 630,000 members have used telehealth, resulting in around 2.6 million claims. Furthermore, more than 200,000 people have sought help via virtual care channels from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS), resulting in around 1.28 million claims. A further 1.3 million claims were filed by more than 480,000 Medicaid members using telehealth to access care from providers outside the MHAS network. Following this significant increase in telehealth usage in Ohio, the state’s Department of Medicaid has filed documents petitioning the state to add more healthcare providers to the list of those eligible to bill for telehealth services, expanding the program permanently. “This permanent expansion of clinically appropriate telehealth services allows us to increase access to quality care while maintaining the fiscal sustainability and integrity of Ohio’s Medicaid program,” said Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran in a statement.

Telehealth is the future, but security remains a top concern, study reveals

20/08/2020

A new survey from a healthcare cybersecurity firm has revealed that telehealth services are being widely accepted as the preferred alternative to face-to-face consultations. However, security remains a top concern. According to the research by CynergisTek, a leading cybersecurity firm in the healthcare space, more than 54% of patients have utilized telehealth services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those people, 73% said they will continue using telehealth services even after the pandemic has subsided. However, the security of such systems is a top concern for many people, with 48% of the 5,000 adult respondents saying they would be unlikely to use virtual care again if their own protected health information was compromised due to a security breach. Interestingly, individuals from different generations view cybersecurity with varying importance. For example, so-called Baby Boomers (generally defined as people born from 1946 to 1964) and The Silent Generation (generally defined as people born from 1925 to 1942) were most likely to abandon telehealth services following a data breach, 62% and 65%, respectively. Nevertheless, most patients s believe that telehealth services can fill pandemic-era gaps for routine care, such as chronic care check-ups (29%) or annual physical and children's wellness exams (27%). Speaking about the findings of the research, Caleb Barlow, president and CEO of CynergisTek, said: “The rapid growth of telehealth has accelerated to a level we wouldn't have expected to see over a 10-year timeframe.”

How telehealth has come into its own during the COVID-19 pandemic

13/08/2020

In a previous blog post — what is telehealth? — we wrote about telehealth services and some of the benefits they afford. Today, we are going to follow on from that post by looking at how telehealth has come into its own during the ongoing pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has meant that millions of people all over the world have had to stay at home, observe social distancing guidelines, and not make any unnecessary trips. But what do you do if you need medical advice or a check-up by your doctor in the middle of a pandemic, with such restrictions in place? Well, according to new research, many seniors are turning to telehealth services so they can keep abreast of their medical needs at this difficult time. In fact, the figures from healthinsurance.com show that overall use of telemedicine services among seniors has increased by a whopping 300% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 30% of survey respondents said they have used telehealth services at least once a month since the COVID-19 crisis occurred. The beauty of telehealth services, such as virtual doctor appointments, is that they are all conducted via the Internet or telephone. Therefore, the patient does not even need to leave the comfort of their home to get a medical opinion — a reality that is particularly beneficial for vulnerable seniors. Want to find out more about the various telehealth services France Surgery provides? Contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.

What is telehealth?

11/08/2020

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you will have likely heard about ‘telehealth’ and ‘telehealth services’. But what is telehealth and how can telehealth services benefit you? In a nutshell, telehealth is the term used to describe healthcare services provided remotely by video or telephone. So if you spoke with your doctor via the Internet using Skype or a similar tool, you would be taking advantage of telehealth services. Another example of telehealth could be if you used an online patient portal to send your healthcare professional some images or records. The goals of telehealth are numerous, but some of the primary desired outcomes include: To make healthcare accessible to people who live in rural or isolated communities To make healthcare accessible to people who have limited mobility, time or those who do not like venturing out of their houses To provide easier and faster access to medical professionals To help enforce social distancing requirements To allow individuals to self-manage their healthcare needs To enable more intuitive collaboration between healthcare professionals to afford better outcomes for patients Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we can expect telehealth services to remain a core part of healthcare going forward. If you’d like to find out more about the telehealth services provided by France Surgery, please get in touch.

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