Global report: France warned of third lockdown, as Dutch protests turn violent

Sam Jones in Madrid
·5-min read

The French government has said a third national lockdown may be inevitable if border controls and the 12-hour curfew that are in place fail to curb the spread of new variants of Covid-19.

The warning came as police clashed with anti-lockdown protesters in the Netherlands, the Italian government announced legal action over delays in receiving vaccine supplies, and New Zealand reported its first community case in more than two months.

From Sunday, those arriving in France from EU countries by air or sea are required to produce a negative PCR swab test result obtained in the previous 72 hours, a requirement that has applied to non-EU arrivals since mid-January.

But the French health minister, Oliver Véran, said another lockdown could be introduced if the current measures – including the nationwide daily curfew from 6pm – prove insufficient.

“We need the curfew to show results,” he told Le Parisien newspaper. “In a best-case scenario, we will manage to diminish the pressure of the epidemic. If not, we will not wait for the month of March before acting.

“If the variants start to spread everywhere, we will take extra measures. And that’s called confinement … We will close down.”

A government spokesman told the France 3 broadcaster that “all scenarios” were on the table, adding that the next few days would be decisive.

France went into lockdown twice in 2020, the first between March and May and the second between October to December.

Protesters in the Netherlands started fires in the centre of the southern city of Eindhoven and pelted police with rocks on Sunday at a banned protest against coronavirus lockdown measures. Officers responded with teargas and water cannon, arresting at least 30 people.

Police in Amsterdam also used a water cannon to disperse another banned anti-lockdown demonstration on a major square ringed by museums. Video showed police spraying people grouped against a wall of the Van Gogh Museum.

It was the worst violence in the Netherlands since the pandemic began. The country has been in a tough lockdown since mid-December that is due to continue at least until 9 February.

In Italy, the government said it would take legal action against Pfizer and AstraZeneca over delays in delivering Covid vaccines.

Pfizer said last week it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would lead to increased output. On Friday, a senior EU official told Reuters that AstraZeneca had also informed Brussels it would cut deliveries of its vaccine to the bloc by 60% because of production problems.

The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the delays in vaccine supplies were unacceptable and amounted to a serious breach of contractual obligations, adding that Italy would use all available legal avenues.

New Zealand reported its first community case of Covid in more than two months on Sunday after a 56-year-old woman tested positive after being released from government managed isolation following two negative tests.

After travelling in Spain and the Netherlands for four months and flying back from London, the woman arrived in Auckland on 30 December.

She was released from government-managed isolation at the Pullman hotel after the negative tests and travelled around south Northland with her husband, visiting as many as 30 locations, including popular holiday spots, AirBnbs and shops.

Six hundred people were in the Pullman hotel at the same time as the woman, and they, as well as the airlines she travelled on, have been contacted.

Israel said it would close its airport to nearly all flights from Tuesday until 31 January, as the government tries to bring the raging coronavirus outbreak under control.
The entry of highly contagious variants of the coronavirus, coupled with poor enforcement of safety rules in ultra-Orthodox communities, has contributed to one of the world’s highest rates of infections. It also has threatened to undercut Israel’s highly successful campaign to vaccinate its population against the virus.
“We are closing the skies hermetically, except for really rare exceptions, to prevent the entry of virus mutations, and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign,” the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday.

In China, the city of Nangong finished work on 2,600 temporary treatment rooms as the country’s north experiences new clusters of the virus.

The single-occupancy rooms in Nangong – in Hebei province, which is just outside Beijing – are each equipped with their own heaters, toilets, showers and other amenities, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Special attention has been paid to Hebei because of its proximity to the capital, and the province has locked down large areas to prevent further spread of the virus. The provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, and the city of Xingtai have largely been sealed off. Community isolation and large-scale testing have also been enforced.

In Spain, the chief of the defence staff resigned on Saturday after reports that he and other senior generals had been given the coronavirus vaccine before priority groups such as care home residents and staff and frontline medical workers.

In a statement on the resignation of Gen Miguel Ángel Villarroya, the defence ministry said the general “never intended to take advantage of unjustifiable privileges which damaged the image of the armed forces and put in doubt the honour of the general”.

Germany announced it would be the first EU country to start using the same experimental antibodies treatment credited with helping Donald Trump recover from Covid.

“The government has bought 200,000 doses for €400m [£356m],” the health minister, Jens Spahn, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

He said the so-called monoclonal antibody cocktails would be distributed to university hospitals in the coming week, adding that Germany was “the first country in the EU” to use them in the fight against the pandemic.

Spahn did not name the manufacturer that will be supplying the drugs but confirmed it was the same medicine given to Trump when he fell ill with Covid last October.

“They work like a passive vaccination. Administering these antibodies in the early stages can help high-risk patients avoid a more serious progression,” Spahn said.

Reuters, the Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report