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French Covid advisory bodies urge booster shots for all



COVID-19 vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination (Representational photo)&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspAP

Paris: Two bodies set up to advise the French government on its handling of the Covid-19 crisis have recommended making booster shots available to all vaccinated adults.

France is currently only offering boosters to people over 65 or with chronic conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus, as well as health workers.

From December 1, they will be expanded to people over 50.

In a note made public on Monday, the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council (COSV) headed by immunologist Alain Fischer recommended rolling out additional jabs for all “to restore vaccine effectiveness to levels allowing us to control the epidemic”.

The Covid-19 Scientific Council, headed by infectious diseases expert Jean-Francois Delfraissy, backed that advice in a separate note published on Monday.

The recommendations come as several European countries and the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe attempt to quell riots over restrictions aimed at containing a new surge in infections.

President Emmanuel Macron said last week he would “not be surprised” if France, which like other European countries is battling a new wave of infections, eventually offered a top-up jab to all vaccinated adults.

“Logically that’s the next step,” he said.

Health Minister Olivier Veran tweeted last week that the government would “soon” look at making booster shots available to people over 40.

As Austria and the Netherlands re-enter partial lockdown and Belgium also tightens vaccine rules the French have been bracing for new restrictions.

Earlier this month, Macron announced that from mid-December people over 65 would require a booster shot if they want to continue using vaccine passes to gain entry to bars, restaurants, cinemas and other public venues.

France has one of the strictest vaccination regimes in Europe, with the passes required to take intercity trains, visit museums and go to gyms, among other amenities.

The pass is credited with helping France avoid a major new outbreak but it has not stopped the daily number of new infections rising to nearly 20,000 on Sunday, a nearly four-fold increase in a month.

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Trump tested positive for Covid few days before Biden debate, chief of staff says in new book | Donald Trump



Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19 three days before his first debate against Joe Biden, the former president’s fourth and last chief of staff has revealed in a new book.

Mark Meadows also writes that though he knew each candidate was required “to test negative for the virus within seventy two hours of the start time … Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there”.

Trump, Meadows says in the book, returned a negative result from a different test shortly after the positive.

Nonetheless, the stunning revelation of an unreported positive test follows a year of speculation about whether Trump, then 74 years old, had the potentially deadly virus when he faced Biden, 77, in Cleveland on 29 September – and what danger that might have presented.

Trump announced he had Covid on 2 October. The White House said he announced that result within an hour of receiving it. He went to hospital later that day.

Meadows’ memoir, The Chief’s Chief, will be published next week by All Seasons Press, a conservative outlet. The Guardian obtained a copy on Tuesday – the day Meadows reversed course and said he would cooperate with the House committee investigating the deadly Capitol attack of 6 January.

Meadows says Trump’s positive result on 26 September was a shock to a White House which had just staged a triumphant Rose Garden ceremony for supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett – an occasion now widely considered to have been a Covid super-spreader event.

Despite the president looking “a little tired” and suspecting a “slight cold”, Meadows says he was “content” that Trump travelled that evening to a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

But as Marine One lifted off, Meadows writes, the White House doctor called.

“Stop the president from leaving,” Meadows says Sean Conley told him. “He just tested positive for Covid.”

It wasn’t possible to stop Trump but when he called from Air Force One, his chief of staff gave him the news.

“Mr President,” Meadows said, “I’ve got some bad news. You’ve tested positive for Covid-19.”

Trump’s reply, the devout Christian writes, “rhyme[d] with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me’.”

Meadows writes of his surprise that such a “massive germaphobe” could have contracted Covid, given precautions including “buckets of hand sanitiser” and “hardly [seeing] anyone who ha[d]n’t been rigorously tested”.

Meadows says the positive test had been done with an old model kit. He told Trump the test would be repeated with “the Binax system, and that we were hoping the first test was a false positive”.

After “a brief but tense wait”, Meadows called back with news of the negative test. He could “almost hear the collective ‘Thank God’ that echoed through the cabin”, he writes.

Meadows says Trump took that call as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened”. His chief of staff, however, “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive” throughout the Pennsylvania trip.

“I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” Meadows writes, “but I also didn’t want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about – which according to the new, much more accurate test, there was not.”

Meadows writes that audience members at the rally “would never have known that anything was amiss”.

The public, however, was not told of the president’s tests.

On Sunday 27 September, the first day between the tests and the debate, Meadows says Trump did little – except playing golf in Virginia and staging an event for military families at which he “spoke about the value of sacrifice”.

Trump later said he might have been infected at that event, thanks to people “within an inch of my face sometimes, they want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I’m not telling them to back up.”

In his book, Meadows does not mention that Trump also held a press conference indoors, in the White House briefing room, the same day.

On Monday 28 September, Trump staged an event at which he talked with business leaders and looked inside “the cab of a new truck”. He also held a Rose Garden press conference “on the work we had all been doing to combat Covid-19”.

“Somewhat ironically, considering his circumstances”, Meadows writes, Trump spoke about a new testing strategy “supposed to give quicker, more accurate readings about whether someone was positive or not.”

Meadows rubs his head as doctors speak about Trump’s health in Bethesda on 4 October.
Meadows rubs his head as doctors speak about Trump’s health in Bethesda on 4 October. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

The White House had still not told the public Trump tested positive and then negative two days before.

On debate day, 29 September, Meadows says, Trump looked slightly better – “emphasis on the word slightly”.

“His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone. But the dark circles under his eyes had deepened. As we walked into the venue around five o’clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual. He walked like he was carrying a little extra weight on his back.”

Trump gave a furious and controversial performance, continually hectoring Biden to the point the Democrat pleaded: “Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.”

The host, Chris Wallace of Fox News, later said Trump was not tested before the debate because he arrived late. Organisers, Wallace said, relied on the honor system.

The White House had not said Trump had tested positive and negative three days before.

Three days later, on 2 October, Trump announced by tweet that he and his wife, Melania Trump, were positive.

That evening, Meadows helped Trump make his way to hospital. During his stay, Meadows helped orchestrate stunts meant to show the president was in good health. Trump recovered, but it has been reported that his case of Covid was much more serious than the White House ever let on.

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China basks in Covid Zero approach as other nations scramble for Omicron



Countries across the world scrambled this week to impose border and travel curbs after the new omicron variant emerged. In China, it was business as usual.

While scientists race to figure out whether the Covid-19 variant first sequenced in South Africa will pose a bigger problem than the highly infectious delta strain, countries ranging from the U.K. and Israel to Japan erred on the side of caution. They put in place preemptive defenses and travel restrictions designed to keep the variant out, rather than betting on omicron being a flash in the pan. It’s a calculus Beijing didn’t have to consider.

The emergence of the highly-mutated form of the virus has provided some vindication for China’s Covid Zero approach, which saw the country close its border indefinitely at the beginning of the pandemic, and intensify its stringent curbs ever since. While other places pivot to living alongside the virus, China has prioritized weeding out every last infection, saying the health of the population is its main priority — and economic benefits will follow.

Covid booster

“Omicron is a booster shot for Covid Zero,” said Huang Yanzhong, a senior fellow for global health at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. “If Western countries are walking back on their reopening and closing borders, they’ll lose the grounds for accusing China of sticking to what they say is an unsustainable and incorrect approach.”

ALSO READ: China doing economic warfare against Australia: US Indo-Pacific adviser

Other countries embracing travel and border restrictions anew raises questions about whether China’s strategy may offer a better defense from newly emerging variants, particularly in the early days when their risk isn’t fully understood and the guarantee of an exit from the Covid pandemic is far from certain. The country’s state-backed newspaper, the Global Times, already declared China the most likely place to avoid devastation from omicron.

While the verdict is still out on whether the startling genetic changes found in omicron justify the preemptive hunkering down, some analysts said China’s approach may offer benefits. Kinger Lau, a strategist with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said the economic fundamentals and ongoing Covid curbs in the world’s second largest economy put it in a better position to face the new variant.



Still, the zero-tolerance strategy China is clinging to has come under growing criticism from abroad and at least partly from within, and goes well beyond rigid border closures to include a growing suite of disruptive curbs.

Harder containment

While it has shielded the world’s most populous country from the rampant infections and massive death tolls that have ravaged other parts of the world, Covid Zero has taxed China and its people, with the weekslong quarantines and re-entry procedures meaning they’re effectively locked inside the country.

It’s gotten harder, and less successful, over time. The handful of delta flareups that have emerged since May are requiring ever-more stringent measures to subdue. China is currently grappling with dozens of infections in a border town in its Inner Mongolia region, even as remnants of a previous outbreak continue to linger.

After vowing to keep out Covid, China doesn’t have many options. The country’s approach is a one-size-fits-all strategy, said Nicholas Thomas, an associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong who has edited several books on foreign policy and public health. The lack of efficient vaccines gives China little room to maneuver, he said.

The inactivated shots developed by the domestic firms Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. are less effective at preventing symptomatic infections than Western mRNA shots in studies, though they slashed hospitalization rates and deaths. Still, relatively little solid data on how these shots work against the delta variant has been published compared to their rivals in the West.

That’s one reason why China continues to double down on its zero-tolerance approach rather than rely on vaccination rates that top 75% of the population, cover children as young as three, and include widespread use of booster shots. It doesn’t have much confidence in what would happen if it eased those curbs, analysts say.

ALSO READ: China local Covid cases jump to most in nearly a month amid fresh outbreak

No countries have reinstated the same level of punishing lockdowns and curbs on personal movement that China continues to deploy, and few would try to impose the other measures in its arsenal like invasive searches and personal tracking. Even the new travel restrictions among countries trying to keep omicron out fall far short of those China uses to isolate itself from the broader world, where Covid continues to circulate.

Unintended benefits

The mitigation measures are having benefits that go beyond Covid. A study conducted by researchers in China and Hong Kong found that lockdowns enacted in the months following the virus’s emergence in Wuhan prevented 347,000 deaths unrelated to Covid.

The lower mortality rates were tied to the stringent curbs, including changes in behaviors such as mask-wearing and social distancing, that led to reduced air pollution, better hygiene and fewer traffic accidents, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

“The results suggest that virus countermeasures not only effectively controlled Covid-19 in China but also brought about unintended and substantial public health benefits,” the researchers said.

Border bandwagon

With more definitive data on omicron’s ability to wreck havoc likely to take weeks, more countries are expected to join the border-closing bandwagon. That shows other governments also are unwilling to take chances, rather than rely on science, says Jin Dong-Yan, a virologist at Hong Kong University. The travel curbs will be temporary if omicron turns out to be not much of a threat.

In China — where omicron is least likely to gain an immediate foothold given the curbs already in place — the variant could push back even further any timeline to reopen to the rest of the world, Huang at the Council on Foreign Relations said.

There is speculation leaders could start cautiously reopening after the Winter Olympics in Beijing, slated to begin in February. At that time, full vaccination rates will be higher than the current 75%, and more effective treatments are likely to be available, Huang said.

The variant could add to the case for postponing any reopening plans until after a major Communist Party summit that’s taking place in the second half of 2022 and is expected to solidify a third term for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Delta and omicron together represent a major threat to China’s health security,” Thomas said. “Without alternative solutions, China is effectively locked into this trajectory well into mid-to-late 2022.”

(With assistance from Jinshan Hong)

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Matrix: Resurrections and Aquaman Star Leaves the Cast of Mad Max: Furiosa



Matrix: Resurrections star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has exited George Miller’s Furiosa – the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road spin-off.

According to Deadline, the 35-year-old actor will be replaced by Tom Burke, who played Orson Wells in the Oscar-winning Netflix movie, Mank.

Abdul-Mateen II is parting ways with Furiosa due to a scheduling conflict. It’s currently unknown what his other project will be. “Sources say it is a secret passion project he had been developing for some time,” Deadline revealed. “Production recently moved up on it, which ultimately led him to leaving Furiosa.” The star will soon appear in The Matrix: Resurrections as a version of Morpheus, and will reprise his role as Black Manta in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom next year.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus in The Matrix: Resurrections. (Image Credit: Warner Bros.)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus in The Matrix: Resurrections. (Image Credit: Warner Bros.)

Mad Max: Furiosa will star Anya Taylor-Joy in its leading role – a younger version of Charlize Theron’s Mad Max Fury Road character, Imperator Furiosa. The upcoming Mad Max spin-off will reveal the character’s origins, but little else is known for the time being.

Chris Hemsworth will also star alongside Anya Taylor-Joy in an undisclosed role, while George Miller returns to direct, write and produce alongside his producing partner, Doug Mitchell.

Although little is known about the film’s plot, George Miller has confirmed that its structure will be very different to Fury Road.

“Whereas Fury Road essentially happened over three days and two nights, this happens over many years,” he said. “You try to make films that are ‘uniquely familiar…’ This will be familiar to those people who know Mad Max, and in particular Fury Road, but also it will be unique.”

Mad Max: Furiosa was originally due to be released on June 23, 2023 but was recently delayed until 2024. Miller also recently revealed that it was an early screening of Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho that convinced him to cast Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role.

The film also marks an early major studio project for Tom Burke, who is perhaps best known for the role of Athos in the 2014 BBC drama, The Musketeers.

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.

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