Millennium Post (Kolkata)
WHO: Europe has surpassed 1 million COVID-19 deaths
France's COVID-19 pandemic death toll set to pass 100,000 amid surge
GENEVA: A top official from the World Health Organisation says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID19 and the situation remains serious, with about 1.6 million new cases reported each week in the region.
Addressing recent concerns about vaccines, Dr Hans Kluge also said the risk of people suffering blood clots is far higher for people with COVID-19 than people who receive AstraZeneca's Coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Greece, Kluge did point to early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries and cited declining incidence among the oldest people.
He said the proportion of COVID-19 deaths among people over 80, who have been prioritized for vaccines, had dropped to nearly 30% the lowest level in the pandemic.
For now, the risk of suffering blood clots is much higher for someone with COVID-19 than for someone who has taken the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.
Let there be no doubt about it, the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in reducing COVID-19 hospitalization and preventing deaths, he added, saying WHO recommends its use for all eligible adults.
Meanwhile, France's Coronavirus death toll is expected to pass 100,000 on Thursday after a year of hospital tensions, on-and-off lockdowns and personal loss that have left families nationwide grieving the pandemic's unending, devastating toll.
The country of 67 million will be the eighth in the world to reach the symbolic mark, and the third in Europe after the United Kingdom and Italy.
The cumulative death toll since the start of the epidemic totaled 99,777 on Wednesday evening. In recent days, French health authorities have been reporting about 300 new daily deaths from COVID-19.
Lionel Petitpas, president of the association Victims of COVID-19, told the Associated Press that the number of 100,000 deaths is an important threshold.
After months of people getting accustomed to the virus, the figure is piercing a lot of minds. It is a figure we thought would never be reached, he said.
Petitpas, who lost his wife Joelle on March 29 last year from the virus, said families of victims “want the government to make a collective gesture to recognize our collective loss.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Le Parisien newspaper he thinks about all of the people who died in the pandemic and their families.
The pandemic was so cruel to individuals who sometimes were not able to accompany, during the last moments and in death, a father, a mother, a loved one, a friend, Macron said. Yet the crisis also shows the ability of the French people to get united, he added.
French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal suggested it is too soon to set a specific date to honor those who died as the country is now fighting another rapid rise in confirmed cases.
There will be an homage for sure, a national mourning for the victims of COVID-19, Attal said Wednesday. That time will come.
Today, we throw all our forces in the battle against the epidemic, he said.
Experts say the 100,000 mark is an under-estimate, by at least several thousands. Analysis of death certificates shows that some COVID-19 cases are not reported when people die at home or in places like psychiatric units and chronic care facilities, they stress.
Petitpas started a Facebook group last year for families of victims to share memories of their loved ones. Nearly every day, new testimonies appear.
My wife, like so many others, was just put in a body bag,” he recalled. “It was like a luxury garbage bag. And then she was put in a coffin and sent to cremation. He was not allowed to see her.
Petitpas said that despite a decree in January allowing people to see their deceased loved ones, many places still aren't allowing it.
All these people who left us (are) like people with the plague, without human dignity, with nothing at all, he deplored.
Celia Prioux-Schwab, a social services worker, lost her 82-year-old grandmother in January, four days after she was sent home from the Reims hospital even though her family had no home-care option, and she still had COVID-19.
She is now pushing for a change in French law to guarantee the right of families to visit hospitalized patients even during a pandemic, to offer support, or even just to say goodbye.