Macron: Kent variant 'gave rise to epidemic within the epidemic'
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The French president this week caused uproar when he performed a screeching U-turn to impose a third nationwide lockdown, after weeks of defying pressure from scientists to impose stricter measures. And on Friday the nation recorded its biggest jump in Covid intensive care patients in months.
A total of 5,254 people were in ICU – an increase of 145 people in one day and the highest daily jump in five months.
The risk of emergency wards being unable to cope was one of the main reasons for President Macron’s strict “stay at home” order.
He was likened to a “dictator” and a “monarch” amid a wave of criticism.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, columnist Sherelle Jacobs argued that Mr Macon’s struggles at home have put the wider EU project at stake.
The bloc has for months been blighted by a chronic shortage of Covid vaccines while the UK powers ahead with its rollout.
And in a desperate bid to get their hands on Covid shots, the European Commission threatened to block exports of vaccines heading to Britain.
French politicians have been blamed for at least partly contributing to the bloc’s hardline tactics.
Ms Jacobs wrote: “In his ruthless approach to solving his own domestic political troubles, Macron risks permanently damaging the EU’s already tarnished reputation.
“His willingness to risk a vaccine trade war to save his domestic image could end in the utter discrediting of Brussels’ commitment to the rule of law.
“Although the EU, in its desperation, claims that there is a legal basis for its unparalleled threat to seize private commercial property, this is based on a highly creative interpretation of its own treaties.”
On Tuesday Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a desperate attempt to inoculate their populations.
The pair discussed the possibility of importing batches of the Sputnik V jab to Europe to help the continent catch up in the vaccination drive.
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From next week, France starts a third lockdown, with schools and non-essential businesses closed nationwide for four weeks.
Announcing the lockdown on Wednesday, President Macron said the number of ICU beds will be raised from 7,000 to over 10,000.
At the peak of the first lockdown in spring 2020, France saw a high of 7,148 COVID-19 patients in ICUs.
That figure fell back to a few hundred in August following the strict first lockdown.
During November’s less restrictive national shutdown, ICU numbers peaked at just under 5,000, but since then they have only briefly dipped below 3,000 in December.
With new infections rising sharply, French doctors expect the third wave of the virus will peak in the coming two weeks, with a further increase in ICU numbers.
On Friday, new confirmed cases jumped by the highest week-on-week rate since the end of November, when France was in its second nationwide lockdown.
The ministry reported 46,677 new cases, 6.2 percent more than a week ago, taking the total to 4.74 million cases.
France on Friday also reported 332 new coronavirus deaths, taking the toll to 96,280.
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