- French officials declare Paris and Marseille high-risk zones.
- Ottawa slow to respond to PPE shortages flagged in February.
- Vietnam registers to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine.
- North Korea lifts three-week lockdown in the city of Kaesong.
The French government on Friday declared Paris and Marseille and its surrounding area high-risk zones for the coronavirus, granting authorities there powers to impose localized curbs to contain the spread of the disease.
The declaration, made in a government decree, follows a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections in France over the past two weeks.
On Thursday, France reported more than 2,500 new COVID-19 infections for the second day in a row, levels last seen in mid-April when the country was in the middle of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
WATCH | COVID-19 spikes prompt new restrictions in Europe:
The government move gives local authorities in Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhone area powers to limit the circulation of people and vehicles, restrict access to public transport and air travel, limit access to public buildings and close restaurants, bars and other establishments.
Paris and Marseille had in recent days already made the wearing of face masks mandatory in busy public areas.
Late on Thursday, the United Kingdom said it would impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France from Saturday because of the spike in infection rates.
The Netherlands and four other countries were also added to the U.K. quarantine list that already included Spain and Belgium.
Making Paris and Marseilles red zones could have a major impact on tourism, as it could lead other countries to impose quarantines on their citizens returning from those areas.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 5 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 121,234 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 107,551 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,053.
The public servants who manage the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) warned in early February that there was a shortage of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to weather a pandemic, but it took weeks for the federal government to sign contracts for goods like N95 respirators, the masks used by health-care professionals to protect themselves from COVID-19.
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CBC News reviewed thousands of pages of documents released to the House of Commons government operations committee, including dozens of contracts signed between bureaucrats at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and companies offering equipment to the federal government.
In a PowerPoint presentation delivered on Feb. 13 by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) — and prompted by the early spread of the coronavirus — bureaucrats responsible for the NESS said the federal stockpile contained only “a modest supply of personal protective equipment, including surgical masks, respirators, gloves, gowns and coveralls.”
“We anticipate increased demand and further requests, and also shortages, limits to availability and impacts on the global supply chain. We want to be as ready as possible to meet immediate needs,” the presentation said.
It is unknown just how much equipment the national stockpile had on hand in February because the charts detailing the inventory have been blacked out.
The records show that, despite the warning in February, the government signed few contracts for PPE or other equipment, like ventilators, until mid-March.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 20.9 million. Over 759,000 people have died, while 13 million have recovered.
One in five prisoners at the largest jail in Indian administered Kashmir has tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities said on Friday, as the health ministry reported a daily nationwide rise of more than 60,000 cases for the third straight day.
India is the world’s third worst-hit country, behind only the United States and Brazil, with more than 2.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to John Hopkins University.
Authorities at the central jail in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar said they were preparing to shift some prisoners after 102 of the 480 tested positive.
Vietnam has registered to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine, state television reported on Friday, as it fights a new outbreak after going several months with no local cases.
Russia said on Wednesday that it would roll out the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine within two weeks, rejecting the concerns of experts who said it should not have been approved before completing large-scale trials.
“In the meantime, Vietnam will still continue developing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine,” state broadcaster Vietnam Television said, citing the country’s ministry of health.
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Belgian hospitals are stockpiling drugs and protective kits and putting in place contingency plans amid a continuing spike in new COVID-19 infections that has forced the capital Brussels to make face masks compulsory in public spaces.
With nearly 10,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has one of the world’s highest death rates from COVID-19 per capita.
New infections have risen steadily in recent weeks, with Belgium now reporting one of the highest number of cases per inhabitants of any European country and prompting fears of a second wave.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un lifted a three-week lockdown in the city of Kaesong and nearby areas, after a man who defected to the South returned to the border town last month showing coronavirus symptoms, state media said on Friday.
Kim made the decision at a politburo meeting convened to discuss the government’s efforts to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, as well as the response to heavy rain and flooding, state news agency KCNA reported.
North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but Kim said last month that the virus “could be said to have entered” the country and imposed the lockdown after the man was reported to have symptoms. Later test results on the man were “inconclusive,” according to the World Health Organisation.
A man in his 20s has become the youngest person to die of the coronavirus in Australia.
He was among 14 new deaths and 372 new infections reported by Victoria state health officials Friday in an outbreak centred in Melbourne.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 188 elderly people had died over the past week as the virus ripped through aged-care homes in Melbourne. Officials say about 70 per cent of Australia’s 375 virus deaths have been at aged-care facilities.
Morrison said Australians had high expectations of the services and standards at nursing homes and other facilities like hospitals and schools.