France: President Emmanuel Macron ordered France into its third national lockdown Wednesday in an effort to slow down the third wave of COVID-19 infecting his country.
Among the lockdown measures, Macron closed all schools for three weeks beginning next Monday.
Macron had hoped to avoid a lockdown and the effect it would have on the economy. However, the country’s death toll is nearing 100,000 and it has struggled with a vaccine rollout that has been slower than hoped for. A rise in cases is crippling intensive care units in areas hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will lose control if we do not move now,” he said in a televised address to the nation.
He also announced movement restrictions, beginning Saturday, for the whole country for at least a month.
In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, and it boosted the overall U.S. death toll by nearly 16% from the previous year.
During the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters the pandemic trailed only heart disease and cancer last year, accounting for about 378,000 fatalities, or 11% of all deaths in the country last year.
Walensky said COVID-19 deaths were highest among Hispanic people, and deaths among ethnic and racial minority groups were more than double the death rate of non-Hispanic white people.
Also Wednesday, Pfizer said it had produced 120 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the U.S.
The drugmaker is on track to deliver to the U.S. 200 million doses by the end of May and 300 million doses by the end of July, as it had vowed earlier this year.
On Monday, Moderna said it had shipped 100 million doses of its vaccine to the United States while Johnson & Johnson said it had delivered about 20 million shots to the U.S. in March.
However, Johnson & Johnson reported Wednesday that a batch of its COVID-19 vaccine made at a facility in Baltimore, Maryland, had failed quality standards and was unusable. The drugmaker did not give details on what happened to the batch or how many doses were lost.
Elsewhere Wednesday, European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke said the organization has found no scientific evidence to support restrictions on using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
She told a virtual news conference from the drug regulator’s headquarters in Denmark that they stand by the statement they made nearly two weeks ago that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh any risks.
The comments come a day after Germany announced it was limiting the vaccine to people 60 years of age and older due to concerns that it may be causing blood clots.
Federal and state health authorities cited nearly three dozen cases of blood clots known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in its decision Tuesday, including nine deaths. The country’s medical regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, said all but two of the cases involved women between the ages of 20 and 63.
Canada, France, and Spain have made similar decisions regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.