France, Germany may die down; Tokyo tightens | Instant News

Authorities in Germany and France are considering easing coronavirus lockdowns as restrictions are tightened or extended in Estonia, Norway, Slovakia and Japan.

France is preparing for possible easing of restrictions from mid-April as the bank relies on accelerating its vaccination campaign against the pandemic, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

“We are still going through difficult times, that’s true, but for the first time in months, a return to more normal living conditions is already in sight,” Attal told reporters after a French cabinet meeting.

“This is not a distant or uncertain horizon – it is a horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope it might be from mid-April, and we are preparing for it,” he said.

“President (Emmanuel Macron) asked us to submit a proposal that could allow a cautious reopening of the country soon.”

France reported 22,857 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, up sharply from 4703 on Monday and up from 19,952 on Sunday, confirming a new upward trend in the disease.

Attal said the situation was “worrying” but the increase was “not exponential”.

With 3.783 million cases reported since the pandemic outbreak a year ago, France has the sixth highest tally in the world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with state prime ministers on Wednesday to discuss coronavirus lockdowns as calls grow to ease restrictions that have weighed on business and public life since late last year.

Negotiations were in full swing ahead of the online conference, with the draft plan proposing looser benchmarks for lifting some moves.

According to the proposal, the next round of easing could be attributed to a seven-day incidence rate – the number of people infected per 100,000 people over the one week period – of 100.

If this level is reached, the state could consider allowing retailers to reopen with a “click and meet” time for buyers.

Museums and zoos can also welcome return visitors by appointment.

States have started sending schoolchildren back to classrooms in recent weeks and hairdressers reopened in Germany on Monday.

Despite calls for easing, politicians and scientists have warned that a more dangerous variant of the coronavirus is spreading in Germany, particularly the B117 strain first identified in Britain.

As of Wednesday, the number of infections registered over the 24-hour period stood at 9,019, exceeding the number recorded on the same day last week by more than 1,000, said the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

Merkel and the prime minister also discussed a proposed launch of mass antigen testing on Wednesday.

The German Ministry of Health recently offered every citizen two free antigen tests per week at pharmacies and other facilities across the country.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was considering extending the ongoing state of emergency for the Tokyo region for about two weeks amid concerns that infections had not slowed enough and continued to weigh on the region’s health systems.

Suga had declared a month-long state of emergency on January 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, then extended the measure to March 7.

“Our anti-infection measures are at a very important phase,” Suga told reporters on Wednesday.

“To protect people’s lives and health, I think we need to extend (the state of emergency) by about two weeks.”

In Norway, authorities said restaurants and gyms in some areas would be closed after pockets of the virus outbreak in the capital Oslo and elsewhere.

The move comes after more cases of the virus mutation have been reported in Norway.

The changes take effect from Wednesday.

Slovakia is tightening restrictive measures in an effort to stop the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain.

Starting Wednesday, Slovakia has imposed a nationwide curfew between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.

In tightly locked Slovakia, people in a country where the virus situation is taken seriously will need to be tested every seven days to be able to go to work.

Estonia also imposed new restrictions that began on Wednesday, while health experts warned about a rise in coronavirus infections.

Indoor events are now banned and recreational, cultural and entertainment venues, hitherto opened with restrictions, must be closed

Most schools continue to offer distance learning, except for years one to four.

According to the ECDC European health authority, Estonia currently has the highest infection rate among European countries.

In this country of 1.3 million people, nearly 70,000 people have contracted the virus and 615 have died from infection.

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