Germany sees Covid-19 spike as EU-wide vaccinations fall short of 70% target

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Thursday that new cases of Covid-19 in her country were rising "exponentially", driven by the Delta variant, as EU officials said more than half of all European adults had been fully vaccinated, short of a 70% target set for the summer.

The EU said the number of fully vaccinated Europeans had passed the 200-million mark, more than half of the adult population but still short of a 70% target set for the end of July.

The fresh data came as Merkel urged more Germans to get jabs, sounding the alarm over a fresh spike in Covid-19 cases in Germany.

"We are seeing exponential growth," she told a news conference in Berlin, adding that "every vaccination ... is a small step towards a return to normality".

Germany has seen an incidence rate of 12.2 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days – more than double rates in early July.

"With a rising incidence rate, it could be that we need to introduce additional measures," she said.

Germany joins a number of European nations that have seen cases climb in recent weeks fuelled by the Delta variant, first detected in India.

The European Central Bank said uncertainty over the wave of infections meant it was keeping the cash taps open to ensure the nascent economic recovery isn't snuffed out.

ECB chief Christine Lagarde said the bank would keep its vast stimulus for the eurozone firmly in place following a meeting of its 25-member governing council.

"The euro area economy is rebounding strongly," Lagarde said, but the Delta variant could damp the post-lockdown recovery "in services, especially in tourism and hospitality", she said.

Mandatory health passes

More than four million people have died from the virus since December 2019, and though rates of vaccination are picking up globally, Delta is fuelling a rise in infections and prompting governments to re-impose anti-virus measures.

France this week rolled out new rules requiring a so-called health pass for all events or places with more than 50 people before being extended to restaurants, cafes and shopping centres in August.

People need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to gain access, after the country reported a new surge – more 21,000 new cases on Wednesday, the highest level since early May.

Italy on Thursday also said a health pass would be mandatory for people wishing to access bars, restaurants, swimming pools, sports facilities, museums and theatres from August 6.

It will also be necessary for people wanting to attend sports events, concerts and seminars.

Cases are also soaring in the UK, where most restrictions were lifted this week. British supermarkets have warned of possible food shortages because staff are being forced to self-isolate.

On Thursday, a one-day international cricket match between the West Indies and Australia at the Kensington Oval in London was cancelled at the last moment due to a positive Covid test from a "non-playing member of the West Indies team".

Meanwhile, countries in Asia are seeing some of their worst outbreaks to date, with Indonesia becoming a new global hotspot as Vietnam and Thailand face new anti-virus rules.

The surge in infections came as the beleaguered Tokyo Olympics were set to open in Japan on Friday after a year-long pandemic delay.

Pandemic restrictions mean that for the first time in Olympic history, no domestic or overseas spectators will be allowed to attend the Games.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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