France and Spain were on Tuesday ramping up their vaccination drives as the number of infections continues to surge.
The Stade de France stadium was on Tuesday turned into a mass vaccination centre where organisers say nurses and firemen should be able to administer 10,000 doses per week.
Aurélien Trousseau, the head of the Regional Health Authority said: “Our goal is simple: … every single dose has to be injected so we don’t lose any.”
Seven military hospitals also opened vaccination centres on Tuesday, staffed by both military and civilians. Together, they should administer up to 50,000 doses weekly, the defence ministry said.
French health authorities said they aim at having about 40 mass vaccination centres open in the coming days, in addition to shots being administrated in smaller centers, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
Vaccines in France are currently reserved to people aged 70 and over, in addition to those with serious health conditions and health care workers.
More than 9.2 million doses of the different COVID-19 vaccines had been administered across France by Sunday evening with 3.1 million people now fully vaccinated.
It comes a day after a new lockdown came into force nationwide, including the closure of schools and all non-essential shops.
The new restrictions were announced last week by President Emmanuel Macron to face a surge of infections blamed on the spread of the variant first detected in England.
Health minister Olivier Veran warned Monday that the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units could increase to the level of the first crisis a year ago.
As of Monday, French intensive care units held 5,433 virus patients. In April 2020, the number reached more than 7,000, many in temporary facilities.
France has reported among the world’s highest death tolls from the virus, at 96,875.
‘Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate’
Across the border, authorities are also planning to accelerate the vaccination campaign.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told a news conference that “the priority now, more than ever, is to vaccinate without respite”.
“Vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate,” he said, adding that a steep rise in deliveries over the coming months should allow for 70 per cent of the countries adult population to be inoculated by the end of August.
Some 38 million doses will be delivered between April and June — more than three times the amount delivered during the first three months of the year. In total, the country expects to have received an additional 87 million doses by September.
“Anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one,” Sánchez said.
To help the rollout pick up speed, some cities are opening mass vaccination centres. The Spanish health system has capacity to inoculate 3.5 million people a week, according to Sánchez.
Spain’s new COVID-19 infections have been edging higher in recent weeks. The 14-day cumulative incidence — a key contagion metric — rose Tuesday to 164 cases per 100,000 people, from 147 a week earlier.
Spain’s COVID-19 death toll currently stands at just under 76,000 — the fifth-highest in Europe after the UK, Italy, France and Germany.
Meanwhile, in the Italian capital, several hundreds of restaurant and small business owners protested on Tuesday against closures and restrictive measures imposed by the government.
Restaurants, gyms, and other business have been either closed or allowed limited activity as Italy battles to contain the third wave the pandemic.
Business owners who lost part of their earnings as a result of the closures are receiving compensation from the government, though many say it is not enough.
Restaurant owner Hermes Ferrari said that he has been defying the rules in order to make a living and urged others to do the same.
“So from tomorrow you have to follow my example, you have to open because nobody can tell you to close”, he said.
Maurizio Pinto, a shop owner, said “it is absolutely not possible anymore to rob the freedom and the work from the people”.
Italy is the EU’s hardest-hit country with more than 111,000 lives to the pandemic.