Top COVID-19 Updates: 2020 Euro finals was a ‘superspreader’

• AstraZeneca says its new antibody therapy radically reduces the risk of people developing coronavirus symptoms, raising the prospects of treatments for preventing the virus beyond vaccines. Data from the UK drugmakers shows the chance of getting any symptoms went down by 77 percent in late-stage trials. The first to publish positive prevention trial data in the field, the company will now target conditional approval in major markets with the aim of producing 1 to 2 million doses by the end of the year.

COVID-19 vaccines

• Belgium will lift restrictions on cafes and restaurants from September 1, allowing them to operate under their regular hours as part of the government’s reopening plan. However, this will not apply to Brussels, which has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. 

• Portugal has decided to loosen capacity restrictions at cafes and cultural venues two weeks earlier than planned, as its vaccination campaign moved faster than expected. The number of people allowed to sit together inside restaurants or cafes will go up from six to eight and from 10 to 15 for outside seating, while cultural venues and bars will be able to stay open until 2 a.m. 

• Catalonia’s regional government is seeking to reimpose a curfew between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. in Barcelona and dozens of other cities in northeastern Spain, a day after a court ordered the measure lifted. The new request is being made for areas popular with tourists, and if granted, would allow the inclusion of 43 new cities in addition to the 19 where the curfew has been maintained.

• The Euro 2020 soccer final between Italy and England in July was a “superspreader” event because of the high level of COVID-19 infections in and around London’s Wembley Stadium, according to official data from Public Health England. The data shows 2,295 people were likely to have been infectious with a further 3,404 having potentially caught the virus at the match, where more than 67,000 fans were in attendance.

• The EU is expecting Novavax to submit data for the possible approval of its vaccine around October in what may be another delay for the rollout of the U.S. jab in Europe. The biotech firm signed a deal with the EU earlier this month to supply up to 200 million doses, saying it would give the European Medicines Agency the data as early as the end of September. However, an EU official familiar with the process told Reuters the timeline was “very uncertain,” and further delays were possible. 

• Britain has reported more than 37,300 new cases and 114 deaths, with new infections steadily rising since the lifting of restrictions in mid-July. On the European mainland, France has reported a further 82 coronavirus-related deaths, with nearly 2,100 people in intensive care units and over 22,000 new cases, while Germany recorded nearly 8,100 new cases and 17 deaths.

• The new James Bond movie “No Time To Die” is set to premiere in the UK on September 28, despite concerns the film’s release could be delayed for a fourth time due to the pandemic. The latest installment in the Bond franchise, among the most valuable in Hollywood, was originally billed for April 2020, but has been repeatedly pushed back due to the restrictions on movie theaters around the world. 

AROUND EUROPE

Iolo ap Dafydd in London

Roads in the UK are far busier this summer than at any other time during the pandemic. More people are holidaying within the British Isles and traffic on major routes to popular resorts is increasing according to data from navigation technology company TomTom. 

Since coronavirus restrictions were relaxed at various dates across the UK’s four nations, there has been an uptick in travel. Inevitably, there has also been a rise in infection rates in popular tourist destinations along the English coast, such as Cornwall. Wales is also experiencing a rise in new cases, which had previously had a lower rate than other parts of the UK.  

More than 47 million people have received at least one dose of the four vaccines authorized, the biggest inoculation program ever launched here. The government calls it a “protective wall.” According to Public Health England estimates, up to August 6, the UK vaccination program has prevented 84,000 deaths and 23 million infections.

Thomas Wintle in Marseille

The chief of Marseille’s hospital system has said it is time to look for a successor to Didier Raoult, the outspoken head of the city’s infectious disease department who garnered global fame during the pandemic due to his controversial statements on coronavirus. 

During the first wave of the virus, Raoult joined former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro in touting the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, despite little evidence of its effectiveness. 

The 69-year-old scientist recently gained further notoriety after posting a video in which he appears to cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines as a weapon against the pandemic, saying that global protection from vaccination was “modest” – prompting outrage from many of his colleagues.

In September, senior medical executives of Marseille’s hospital system will start looking for a successor to Raoult, who is seen by some as a foil to Parisian orthodoxy in a city that prides itself on being independent from the French capital. 

Today, the southern city is among one of the many locations in France to host a demonstration against the new far-reaching restrictions implemented through France’s pass sanitaire system. Now in their sixth week, the nationwide anti-health pass protests attracted nearly 215,000 people last Saturday, according to official figures.

Spain

The regional government of Catalonia on Friday called for the restoration of a night curfew in Barcelona, alongside several dozen other cities, after its request was rejected to maintain the measures in popular tourist destinations in northeast Spain.

Catalonia’s high court only authorized the extension of the curfew between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. in 19 of the 148 towns for which the request had been made. Now the regional executive has filed a new request to reconsider the measure in the most populated places.

It extends to cities of more than 20,000 inhabitants where the incidence rate of the virus has exceeded 125 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days, allowing the inclusion of 43 new cities. That includes Barcelona and busy municipalities in a region of almost 7.8 million inhabitants, as well as tourist hotspots along the coast like Lloret de Mar, Salou and Cambrils.