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Blow for Macron's party as opposition join forces to hold up Covid bill

The United States set a new world record with more than one million cases logged yesterday.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE CENTRIST PARTY of French President Emmanuel Macron was left red-faced after opposition parties joined forces to hold up a bill tightening measures against Covid-19.

The lower house National Assembly was debating the implementation of a health pass that will require a full course of vaccination to attend events, eat out or travel by inter-city train, rather than a recent negative test or proof of recovery.

But when the government asked the chamber late last night to continue debating the legislation after midnight, to ensure it could be adopted by the end of the week, the right-wing Republicans (LR) teamed up with the far-right and far-left to stop the debate.

In an embarrassment for Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party that controls parliament, not enough of its lawmakers were still present in the chamber when the vote by a show of hands was taken on continuing the debate.

French media said the surprise move by the LR – which has backed the main thrust of the legislation – pointed to rising political tensions ahead of April 2022 presidential elections, which Macron appears the favourite, but is not certain, to win.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal lashed out at a “procedural coup” by opposition lawmakers, saying they wanted to “derail the calendar” for the vaccine pass for purely political reasons.

“We will do everything to stick to the calendar as has been set out,” he told France Inter radio. The government wants the new legislation to be implemented from January 15.

The debate was due to resume late today, parliamentary sources said, with 500 amendments filed by the opposition to be discussed and lawmakers facing another late night.

One million cases a day in US

racine-wisconsin-usa-3rd-jan-2022-dozens-of-people-waited-in-a-windchill-of-seven-degrees-21-degree-temperature-for-covid-19-tests-at-festival-hall-along-the-lake-michigan-shoreline-in-racine People waiting in a windchill of minus seven degrees for COVID-19 tests at Festival Hall along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Racine, Wisconsin Source: Alamy Stock Photo

The United States recorded more than one million Covid-19 cases on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as the Omicron variant spread at a blistering pace.

There were 1,080,211 new cases in the country, a global record, with the number of cases doubling on the previous week.

It comes a day after top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said the country was experiencing “almost a vertical increase” in Covid-19 cases, adding the peak may be only weeks away.

The heavily mutated Omicron strain – the most transmissible to date – accounted for around 59% of national US cases in the week ending 25 December, according to government modelling.

Fauci said the experience of South Africa — where the strain was first detected in late November and peaked quickly, then subsided nearly as speedily — offered some hope.

Rates of death and hospitalization in the US have been far lower in recent weeks than during previous Covid surges.

With 9,382 deaths over the past seven days, the nation’s death toll has fallen by 10%, week on week.

In the last seven days, the country has recorded 3.4 million cases at an average of 486,000 per day with a peak on January 3, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US record during previous waves was 258,000 cases per day, for the week of January 5 to 11, 2021.

Violence flares at pandemic protests in Germany

Police in Germany reported sporadic violence at demonstrations against the country’s pandemic restrictions, with one protester in the eastern town of Lichtenstein biting an officer and another attempting to steal a service weapon.

Tens of thousands of people in scores of German towns and cities have taken part in weekly marches that organisers have labelled “strolls” in an attempt to bypass restrictions on public gatherings. Counter-protests were also held in towns such as Rostock and Trier, the dpa news agency reported.

Most of the rallies passed peacefully, though many broke rules on social distancing, prompting officers to intervene. Police detained dozens of people, some of whom face criminal charges or fines for breaching Covid-19 rules.

Police in the eastern state of Saxony said the incident late last night in Lichtenstein, about 20 kilometres west of Chemnitz, occurred when officers tried to pull around 60 rowdy people out of a march to check their identities. Several of the protesters attacked police and sprayed them with chemical irritants.

“One person attempted to seize an officer’s service weapon and another police officer suffered a bite wound from a participant of the gathering,” Saxony Police said in a statement.

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featureimage Source: PA

In Bautzen, further east, some participants of a 600-strong march attempted to break through a police cordon. Officers responded with pepper spray and batons.

In Magdeburg, the capital of neighbouring Saxony-Anhalt state, protesters hurled bottles and fireworks at police. No officers were injured, police said.

The protests took place before a meeting today of Germany’s pandemic expert panel, which is expected to submit new recommendations to the government for how to respond to the latest coronavirus outbreak. A meeting of state and federal leaders is scheduled for Friday.

The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said today that 30,561 new coronavirus cases had been reported in the past 24 hours, over 9,000 more than a week earlier. The officially recorded infection rate was 239.9 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.

The health minister has said the real rate is probably two or three times higher because of patchy testing and reporting over the holiday period.

At least 356 new deaths from Covid-19 were reported in Germany today.

© AFP 2022 with reporting from Press Assocaition 

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