Covid-19, what you need to know this week: alert on North Korea

While in France the mask is abandoned, the Covid-19 could wreak havoc in North Korea.


Not so easy to unmask after all. Since Monday, the masks have been falling in the metro, buses, coaches, trains or planes. And yet, many are reluctant to remove it while the Covid is still circulating and the sub-variants of Omicron threaten Europe with an epidemic resumption. In North Korea, where the population is not vaccinated, the disease coupled with food insecurity could wreak havoc. China is paying the price for its confinements with an economy at half mast. Finally, the biotech Valneva is experiencing setbacks with its anti-Covid vaccine.

Good reading,

Camille Lestienne, journalist at Figaro.

1. The mask resists

The masked meet the non-masked in the Paris metro. Julien Da Sois

Monday morning, public transport regained a human face. The obligation to wear a mask abandoned, the French however only timidly took advantage of their regained freedom. “There is still a high level of contamination. I’ll take it off when I feel comfortable», entrusts to the Figaro a user of the Paris metro. Others dread having to wear it again after the summer. Besides, it is not wise to throw away one’s last masks. In addition to the fact that the mask is still recommended in case of affluence and that it is required in health establishments, the High Council of Public Health suggests encouraging the French to keep in stock one to two boxes of masks to face to a possible epidemic in the future. As for state stocks, they must cover “at least 10 weeks” of need.

However, we already know that the sub-variants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5 threaten to relaunch contaminations in the weeks or months to come in Europe, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) . Last Friday, Public Health France indicated that the figure of one million possible cases of reinfection was going to be reached in the country. Two categories were more affected: adults aged 18 to 40, and health professionals. In Europe, the death toll from Covid has exceeded two million, the WHO announced last week.

The numbers to remember

  • 1149 patients in critical care (-24 since the day before)
  • 17.883 hospitalized patients (-407 since the day before)
  • 29.995 new cases detected (40,299 a week ago)
  • 80 deaths in 24 hours in hospital (147,648 dead since the start of the epidemic in hospitals and nursing homes)
  • 53.5 million people have a complete vaccination schedule (79.3% of the population)
  • 41.6 million booster doses administered

Source: Public Health France as of May 18

2. North Korea is bogged down

Food distributions are organized in North Korea. KYODO / REUTERS

The WHO and the UN are worried about North Korea and are offering their help to the authorities in Pyongyang. The progression of contamination due to Omicron could cause havoc. The number of cases of “fever” – thus listed for lack of a screening test – exploded and reached hundreds of thousands of contaminations in the space of a few days. Le Figaro takes stock of the North Korean situation. With an unvaccinated population, a precarious healthcare system and a threatening famine if confinement paralyzes cereal production, the totally isolated country would have no choice but to accept international aid. “I’m not sure they’ll go to that level of openness», Comments the epidemiologist Antoine Flahault.

3. China perseveres

Behind these numbers is the loss of countless businesses and individuals, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet.

Hu Xijin, columnist at the Global Times.

Neighboring North Korea, China is persevering with its “zero Covid” strategy despite some cracking at the seams. The successive confinements and restrictions in the metropolises paralyze the economy. Retail sales plunge, unemployment jumps. “The worst may be over, but China will struggle to regain its pre-pandemic level“Judge Julian Evans-Pritchard in a note from Capital Economics. While in Beijing, students are protesting against a strengthening of measures, the Shanghai authorities have decided to loosen the noose. Since Monday, businesses must gradually reopen. Xi Jinping assured Wednesday that China would remain “open to the world”.

4. Valneva’s setbacks

The European Commission could cancel its orders for Valneva’s Covid vaccine. LISI NIESNER / REUTERS

Valneva warned on Monday that the European Commission intends to terminate the agreement to supply 60 million doses of its Covid vaccine, the latter having still not obtained the green light from the European Medicines Agency ( EMA). An announcement that led to the fall of its title by nearly 20% on the stock market. “The decision of the European Commission is regrettable, and all the more so as we continue to receive messages from Europeans who are looking for a more traditional vaccine solution, said Thomas Lingelbach, the managing director of the Franco-Austrian biotech. Valneva’s serum is the only product based on inactivated virus and can hope to convince people hostile to messenger RNA.

SEE ALSO — Covid-19: WHO ‘deeply concerned’ over devastation in North Korea says ready to help

5. Mask and pass

Since March 14, health restrictions linked to the epidemic have been mostly abandoned. However, mask and pass are still required in some places:

Wearing a mask is required in health and medico-social establishments. It is no longer required in public passenger transport but remains recommended in crowded places, particularly in the presence of fragile people. It is also recommended for vulnerable people, at risk of developing a severe form of the disease and for symptomatic people and positive cases up to seven days after their release from isolation.

The sanitary pass (vaccine, negative test, certificate of recovery) is always requested at the entrance to hospitals, retirement homes and establishments for the disabled.

6. The reflexes to keep

The virus is transmitted by droplets and aerosols. The barrier gestures detailed by the Ministry of Health must be observed to protect themselves and others:

  • Wash your hands regularly or use hydroalcoholic gel
  • Cough or sneeze into the crease of your elbow
  • Use single-use tissues
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Air the rooms as often as possible, at least a few minutes every hour
  • Greet without shaking hands and stop kissing

7. What to do in case of symptoms?

The disease is most often manifested by cough, fever or feeling feverish, loss of smell and taste, fatigue. If after a few days, you have trouble breathing or are out of breath, you should contact 15. The symptoms would be lighter with the Omicron variant, similar to those of a cold: sore throat, headache, runny nasal.

In case of signs of the disease, the most important thing is to get tested. The test, PCR or antigen, remains free for non-vaccinated people on medical prescription or after having been identified as a contact case by Health Insurance. In the event of a positive result on a self-test, a confirmation PCR test is recommended. While waiting for the result, you must isolate yourself and wear a mask. If the test is positive, isolation must last 7 days from the first symptoms for vaccinated persons, 10 days for unvaccinated people. It can be broken on D+5 or D+7 respectively, if you have a negative test and you have had no symptoms for 48 hours. Since March 21, 2022, contact cases no longer need to isolate themselves, vaccinated or not.

See you next week.

SEE ALSO – Covid-19: Kim Jong Un visits pharmacies facing drug shortages


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