EU summit postponed over coronavirus case
September 23 2020 01:28 AM
Macron is seen with elderly people practising self-defence techniques in La Bonne Eure nursing home (EPHAD) in Bracieux, Loir-et-Cher, yesterday, as part of a visit to welcome the mobilisation of nursing home staff and to call for the preservation of the social link with families.


A European Union leaders’ summit due to start tomorrow has been postponed after a security guard tested positive for coronavirus, forcing EU chief Charles Michel to quarantine.
The highly-contagious coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
Spokesman Barend Leyts tweeted that Michel, the president of the European Council, decided to reschedule the meeting for October 1.
Michel had learnt that “a security officer, with whom he was in close contact early last week, tested positive for Covid”, Leyts said.
“The president is tested regularly and tested negative yesterday. Respecting Belgian rules, he has gone into quarantine as of today.”
The extraordinary summit had been called to discuss foreign affairs and was set to be dominated by the crises in Belarus and in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey and Greece are in a stand-off over gas drilling (see report above).
European leaders and ministers have resumed face-to-face meetings under social distancing rules, but EU officials in Brussels still abide by Belgium’s lockdown rules imposed to battle the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the traditional Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm has been cancelled for the first time since 1944 in favour of a televised event due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers announced yesterday.
Under normal circumstances laureates are invited to Stockholm to receive their medals and diplomas from the king of Sweden in person, at a formal ceremony in December.
“The current circumstances with the ongoing pandemic means that this is a unique year in the history of the Nobel Prize, as the idea is that medals and diplomas are handed over to the laureates safely in their home countries,” the Nobel Foundation said in a statement.
It said that would likely be done “with the help of embassies or the laureates’ universities”.
In July, the foundation announced that the lavish banquet that traditionally follows the award ceremony would be cancelled this year and the events of the “Nobel Week” leading up to the prize ceremony would take on “new forms”.
The award ceremony, which was last cancelled in 1944 due to World War II, would instead take the form of a televised event “where the awarding of this year’s prizes will be woven together with features from different parts of the world”.
During World War II, several prizes were not awarded and several were postponed, even though Sweden did not participate in the fighting.
The 1944 prizes were awarded in 1945, according to Nobel historian Gustav Kallstrand.
“The last time there wasn’t any ceremony in Stockholm was 1944, but this year there will be a ceremony, just a digital one,” he told AFP.
This year’s laureates, in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics, will be announced between October 5 and 12.
Earlier, the head of the Nobel Institute in Norway said the ceremony for the Peace Prize – which is held in Oslo, also on December 10 – would be scaled back and moved from the usual grand venue at Oslo’s City Hall to the smaller Oslo University auditorium, due to the pandemic.
Spain’s cumulative tally of confirmed coronavirus infections rose by nearly 10,800 yesterday from the previous day to reach 682,267, health ministry data showed, as the region of Catalonia said it would further limit public gatherings.
That included 3,125 cases diagnosed in the last 24 hours, but these daily figures tend to end up much higher after retroactive updates of the infection tally, having exceeded 10,000 cases per day for most of last week.
With 21 deaths from the virus in the last day, the total number of Covid-19 fatalities has reached 30,904.
More than 10,600 people were in hospital with Covid-19, 1,348 of them in intensive care.
Spain has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Western Europe.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that France must do everything possible to avoid locking up elderly people in nursing homes to protect them from a resurgence in coronavirus infections nationwide.
The number of coronavirus infections has spiralled higher in France in recent weeks, including the number of admissions to intensive care units, and elderly people are seen most at risk.
“We must as long as possible allow our fellow citizens in nursing homes to continue having interactions,” Macron said during a visit to an elderly care home in Bracieux, Loir-et-Cher, in central France.
“We want to avoid the radical and massive response we made in March-April when we had less understanding of the virus and had fewer tests available.”
Some of France’s biggest cities outside Paris including Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux have imposed new restrictions to try to slow the coronavirus’ spread and reduce the number of intensive care admissions.
Almost 31,340 people in France have died from Covid-19, the health ministry said on Monday, and the cumulative number of cases stood at more than 458,000.
Of 1,077 coronavirus clusters being investigated, 178 were in elderly care homes.
The Netherlands has reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections in any week since the pandemic began, following a 60% rise in new cases over the past seven days.
The 13,471 new infections reported yesterday by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) were part of a European surge that began shortly after summer vacations ended.
“We can now see the second wave,” the agency’s head, Jaap van Dissel, said in testimony before a parliamentary committee.
The RIVM data on Tuesday showed that, in cases where the source of infection can be traced, people in the Netherlands are most often infected by family members or at work.
Few cases are successfully traced.
Health workers say those infected are reluctant to disclose whom they may have been in contact with.
Sweden, which so far has decided against lockdowns as a means to contain Covid-19, is meanwhile seeing early signs that the number of coronavirus cases are rising again and could impose new measures in the capital, its chief health officials said yesterday.
Sweden’s strategy emphasising personal responsibility rather than major lockdowns to slow the virus drew fierce criticism as deaths shot up during the spring, but has also been lauded by World Health Organisation (WHO) officials as a sustainable model.
Infections dropped significantly in the summer and so far Sweden had been spared the type of sharp increases in new cases seen in Spain, France and Britain in the past month.
However, around 1,200 new cases and five deaths have been reported since Friday, compared to around 200 cases per day in the last weeks.
The increase in new cases cannot solely be explained by increased testing, the Public Health Agency said.
“The rolling average has increased somewhat,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist who devised its pandemic strategy, told a news conference.
Sweden has reported 5,870 deaths since the start of the pandemic, many more per capita than its Nordic neighbours but also lower than countries like Spain and Italy that opted for hard lockdowns.

Last updated: September 23 2020 01:32 AM

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