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Coronavirus: Paris imposes face masks along the River Seine and in other outdoors areas | World News



Wearing a face mask outdoors in some crowded parts of Paris will become mandatory next week, as France battles a surge in coronavirus infections.

Areas of the French capital where the new measures will be enforced include the banks of the River Seine and along the Canal St Martin as well as open-air markets and other places where social distancing is difficult, local officials said.

Tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees boulevard were not included.

France is experiencing a spike in coronavirus infections. More than 2,200 new cases were reported on Friday, the biggest single-day increase since May. That brought the total for the week to 9,330.

Paris is imposing face masks in some outdoor areas
Masks will become compulsory along the banks of the River Seine

Under the new measures, masks will become mandatory for all people aged 11 and over as of Monday morning and will remain in place for one month.

Those breaching the order face a fine of €135 (£120).

Wearing a mask outdoors is also mandatory in some crowded parts of cities including Marseilles, the country’s second largest, Nice and Lille. The glamorous French Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez is also requiring face masks outdoors.

France has suffered more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The country made it compulsory to wear a face mask in closed public spaces such as shops and banks since 21 July.

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The national government’s top scientific body said this week that the situation is “precarious”.

“We could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control, like in Spain,” it said.

“It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.”

European countries are experiencing new flare-ups after easing lockdown restrictions to try to limit the economic damage and alleviate public frustration.

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Primodos: UK campaign prompts German government to investigate pregnancy test drug | World News



Campaigners have described it as “a huge step forward”.

The German Federal Ministry of Health has announced it will launch a review into the pregnancy test drug Primodos, which is alleged to have deformed babies.

Primodos, manufactured in Germany, was given to women by GPs in the 1960s and 1970s. Many parents believe the hormone-packed pill damaged the foetus in the womb, leaving children with life-changing malformations.

It’s estimated 1.5 million women in the UK used the drug and the same formulation was also widely used in Germany under the brand name Duogynon.

Schering AG (today Bayer AG) manufactured Primodos

The German government has been reluctant to look into the issue and campaigners in Germany were relying on a breakthrough in the UK.

That came after an independent review in Britain found in July that government health regulators had failed patients and that Primodos was responsible for “avoidable harm”.

The review led by Baroness Cumberege said the drug should have been removed from the market in 1967, more than a decade earlier than it was, and that both the state and the manufacturer had “an ethical responsibility” to fund a financial scheme for “those harmed” to help them with the cost of care.

That hasn’t happened yet, but pressure from Germany could be key.

The German review is expected to focus on whether connections between the then German regulator, the BGA, and the manufacturer Schering AG (today Bayer AG), led to the drug remaining on the market despite concerns about its safety.

Marie Lyon, chair of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests and a leading Primodos campaigner, told Sky News: “This is a huge step forward for the German campaign group and one we thought we would never see happen.

“The group had struggled to gain sufficient support from MPs, due to the different political climate in Germany. I have worked with the German campaign group since 2012 and with their MPs since 2016.

“Until now the German government have refused to acknowledge any evidence of harm, or initiate an independent inquiry. The MPs deserve recognition for their persistence and I send them huge congratulations on their well-deserved success.”

Last year, Sky News travelled with Ms Lyon to Berlin to meet German MPs where she presented new analysis from Oxford University professors Carl Heneghan and Jeffrey Aronson, which found there was an association between the drug and malformations.

Marie Lyon campaigns
Sky News travelled with Primodos campaigner Marie Lyon to Germany

It was after this meeting that 30 German politicians wrote to the department of health calling for a review.

This week, the federal minister for health, Jens Spahn, wrote back to the MPs.

His letter states that “all the known findings and the scientific evidence do not currently support a causal link”, but he goes on to inform them that “a research project” will be carried out and it “will include an examination of the relationship between the regulatory authority and pharmaceutical companies”.

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In a statement, Bayer AG said: “No new scientific knowledge has been produced which would call into question the validity of the previous assessment of there being no link between the use of Primodos and the occurrence of such congenital abnormalities.”

Marie Lyon went to Berlin to present new analysis to German MPs

“In 2017 the Expert Working Group of the UK’s Commission on Human Medicines published a detailed report concluding that the available scientific data from a variety of scientific disciplines did not support the existence of a causal relationship between the use of sex hormones in pregnancy and an increased incidence of malformations in the new born or of other adverse outcomes such as miscarriage.”

The German review is expected to return its findings next summer.

Watch Bitter Pill: Primidos here.

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Yemen: ‘Choices have been made to abandon these people’, says UN official | World News



The “distressing” situation in Yemen is a result of choices made by “powerful countries and powerful people”, according to a UN official.

Sir Mark Lowcock told Sky News “choices have been made to abandon these people”.

He added that deciding not to fund the relief operation has been “one of the worst choices” made this year.

The country has been devastated by a conflict between Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s administration and the Houthi armed movement since 2014 – both claim to form the official government.

Sir Mark Lowcock is warning millions of Yemeni children could starve to death

‘All about choices’ as Yemen faces famine

Mr Hadi’s government is supported by powerful countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, but also backed by the US, Britain and the United Arab Emirates.

The crisis has worsened due to coronavirus, with the UN saying more than 20 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance because of the ongoing conflict – almost half of them children.

The UK government has said that famine in Yemen “has never looked more likely”.

The UN under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator said the situation in Yemen is “very distressing and upsetting”, and one which is “very important” for the world to see.

In the past, relief efforts have helped avoid suffering and death. However, without these in place Sir Lowcock said “half the people we were reaching, we’re barely able to give any food to anymore”.

This has also led to the closure of clinics and water stations.

He said countries in the Gulf typically pledge a lot of money but “have not pledged as much this year and have paid almost nothing”, adding that “every country actually needs to step up to do more”.

Last year, Saudi Arabia gave $750m to the appeal – this year they pledged $500m, before decreasing the amount to $300m.

Sir Lowcock said even this amount isn’t “going to be enough, it’s not going to turn the corner, it’s not going to save all of those millions of children”, adding that the relief operation needs to get back to where it was in 2019.

David Milliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, emphasised this is not a tragedy, telling Sky News: “This is a crisis of diplomacy because there’s a war going on. It’s a crisis of politics because the UN is stuck unable to bring the waring parties to heel.

“It’s a crisis of the humanitarian system too because only 30% of the UN appeal is funded.”

He added: “The threat of famine and the reality of malnutrition is daily life in Yemen today and it is preventable, and that’s what makes this an absolute scandal. We need the governments of the world to fulfil their responsibilities.”

Commenting on the crisis, Sir Lowcock added that what has been seen so far is “just the tip of the iceberg” as those unable to get to the hospital are in a much worse situation.

He said: “They’re in a tiny shelter covered by a piece of plastic with no food, no water, no power.

“They have nothing except the care and the support of their families as they breathe their last.”

Sir Lowcock spoke about how “heartbreaking” the closure of the “life saving” programmes has been, but highlighted that the UN can “only keep them going if people pay for them” due to its reliance on voluntary contributions.

Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said the UK would provide a further £5.8m in UK aid to help avoid famine in the country.

The UK support is said to be able to help at least 500,000 vulnerable people each month with buying food and household essentials, including soap and medicine.

Speaking in New York at a meeting of permanent UN Security Council members, Mr Raab said: “The humanitarian situation in Yemen is now the worst it has ever been, and compounded with the threat of coronavirus, the country has never looked more likely to slide into famine.

“Unless donors urgently act now and follow through on their pledges, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of dying simply from starvation.”

He also called for “unwavering support” for plans to secure a ceasefire that ends the suffering.

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Coronavirus: European countries impose new restrictions as infections tick upwards | World News



Several countries across Europe have announced new coronavirus restrictions in some of their largest cities after recent surges in infections. 

Spain, Greece, Denmark and France imposed further measures in virus hotspots, while health authorities in Italy have warned the average age of coronavirus patients is creeping up – risking more hospital admissions and deaths.

Infections have been climbing steadily across most of Europe over the last two months, with more than half of European countries seeing an increase of over 10% in the past two weeks.

On Friday, Madrid residents were told they will need a reason to leave their neighbourhoods, parks will be closed and shops and restaurants will have to work at half capacity.

Cases have continued to rise in the Spanish capital, despite curbs on nightlife and limiting group interactions to a maximum of 10 people.

Spain has the highest number of new coronavirus infections in Europe and Madrid’s rate of transmission is more than double the national average.

The country recorded 239 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, the highest single-day toll since cases began to rise again at the start of July.

Triage tents installed outside a Madrid military hospital
Triage tents installed outside a Madrid military hospital

In France, which has also seen a recent spike in infections, further restrictions have been introduced in the southern city of Nice.

Gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned in public spaces and bars are having their opening hours restricted.

More than 13,200 new cases were registered on Friday, France’s highest daily count since the start of the pandemic.

Greece is introducing tougher restrictions in the greater Athens region, while also stepping up testing and creating quarantine hotels.

From 21 September until 4 October, gatherings of more than nine people will be banned in the capital, with the exception of restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

Some 339 new infections were reported in Greece on Friday, with almost half of these in the greater Athens area.

In total, there have been 14,000 confirmed cases and 327 deaths nationwide.

Denmark has lowered the limit on public gatherings to 50 people from 100 and ordered bars and restaurants to close early, after the country recorded 454 new infections on Friday.

Meanwhile, Iceland has ordered entertainment venues and pubs in the capital area to close for four days from 18 September.

People dancing at a bar in Reykjavik, Iceland
People dancing at a bar in Reykjavik, Iceland

Italy, which was once the epicentre of the virus in Europe, is not experiencing the huge increases in infections seen in some of its neighbouring countries.

But health officials have warned that young people are starting to infect older family members in home settings, with the average age of positive cases last week at 41 versus the low 30s in August.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the number of COVID-19 cases in Europe are now exceeding those reported in March.

The WHO’s regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, told a news briefing: “The September case numbers… should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region.”

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