Health, fitness and Food

France ditches masks but virus cases surge in Africa

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Highly contagious coronavirus variants are fuelling a surge in infections in Africa, the World Health Organization warned Thursday, while in Europe more governments eased their pandemic restrictions.

France savoured a fresh sense of freedom as people were allowed to remove face masks while outside for the first time since last autumn, and Disneyland Paris welcomed visitors after an eight-month hiatus.

Austria meanwhile announced that partygoers will be allowed to hit the dancefloor again in July as nightclubs reopen, in line with a broader easing of measures.

Africa has so far been hit less hard by the pandemic than most other regions, with 135,885 deaths from 5,107,939 cases so far, according to official figures.

But the WHO left little doubt that things are changing.

“Africa is in the midst of a full-blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, told an online news conference.

The UN health agency said a lack of adherence to social distancing and other measures had fuelled the new surge, along with cold winter weather in southern Africa and the spread of more transmissible variants.

In 22 African countries, cases rose by more than 20 percent in the week to June 13, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Uganda reporting their highest levels of new weekly cases since the pandemic began, according to WHO data.

Moeti called the situation “an urgent wake-up call” for faster vaccination rollouts in Africa against Covid-19. Less than one percent of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated so far.

– Tokyo easing ahead of Olympics –

Elsewhere, though, inoculation campaigns are allowing governments to ease up on virus restrictions.

Japan’s government on Thursday approved the lifting of Tokyo’s state of emergency just over a month before it host the Olympics, but set new restrictions that could sharply limit fans at Games events.

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