France, England Expand Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines

To fight a rise in cases caused by the coronavirus variants, France and England moved Monday to increase vaccinations.

France is now allowing all adults to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, were vaccinated Monday.

“Like Brigitte and I, like 25 million French people have already done, let’s get vaccinated! To protect ourselves, to protect our loved ones,” Macron, who contracted the disease caused by the coronavirus in December, tweeted.

As of Monday, France had confirmed more than 5.7 million cases of COVID-19 and 109,690 deaths caused by the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

In Britain, health officials opened London’s Twickenham rugby station as a mass vaccination site. No appointments were required. The country, which is experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases, is trying to contain a fast-spreading virus variant that was first identified in India and accounts for most of its new cases.

The United Kingdom had confirmed 4.5 million COVID-19 cases on Monday, and 128,044 deaths.

Beginning June 7, Germany plans to make the coronavirus vaccine available to all people older than 16.

As of Monday, Germany had nearly 3.7 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 88,469 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Variants renamed

The World Health Organization, responding to criticisms that the scientific names of the various coronavirus variants were too complicated or stigmatized certain countries, on Monday assigned the variants letters of the Greek alphabet.

The four main variants are generally referred to as the Brazil, India, South Africa and U.K. variants. Critics have told the WHO the scientific names were too complicated. For example, the so-called South African coronavirus variant goes by several names, such as B.1.351, 501Y.V2 and 20H/501Y.V2.

The variants’ scientific names will remain the same, the WHO said. The change affects the names given the variants when being discussed with the public. The U.K., South Africa, Brazil and India variants have now been given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, respectively, according to the order in which they were detected, the WHO said.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” WHO COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove tweeted.

The WHO has listed all the variants and their corresponding Greek alphabet designation on its website.

Historically, viruses have often been associated with the locations from which they are thought to have emerged, such as Ebola named after the eponymous Congolese river, according to Reuters. However, the naming can be inaccurate or damaging, as with the so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the origins of which are unknown.

Peru toll revised

Also Monday, Peru Health Minister Oscar Ugarte revised the coronavirus death toll for the country, from 69,342 to 180,764.

“What is being said is that a significant number of deaths were not classified as caused by COVID-19,” Ugarte said, adding that the criteria for assigning COVID-19 as the cause of death was changed. Previously, only patients who “had a positive diagnostic test” were considered to have died from the coronavirus, he said.

The criteria were broadened beyond people who tested positive for the virus to include probable cases with “an epidemiological link to a confirmed case,” according to a panel composed of experts from public and private health entities in Peru and from the World Health Organization, the Agence France-Presse reported.

The country’s death toll had been questioned since early last year, and experts warned the death toll was being undercounted.

Vietnam ramps up testing

Because of a recent surge in coronavirus cases, all 9 million residents in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city, will be tested for the coronavirus, city officials said.

The state newspaper, Vietnam News, said the city has a testing capacity of 100,000 samples a day, according to The Associated Press.

The country has been battling a surge in the coronavirus since the end of April, tallying more than 4,000 cases. Since early last year, Vietnam has had only 7,321 confirmed cases of the virus and 47 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

China restricts travel

Meanwhile, China reimposed on Monday travel controls on Guangdong province after the region recorded 20 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the 24-hour period ending at midnight Sunday.

Provincial officials said that anyone leaving the province, which has a population of 113.4 million people, must provide the results of a nucleic acid test within the previous 72 hours.

As of Monday, China had recorded 102,991 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,846 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

Source: Voice of America