• France’s prime minister, Jean Castex, tests positive for the coronavirus. The French news media has criticized him for his past failures to follow the government’s social-distancing recommendations, with many people sharing videos of Mr. Castex appearing to ignore distancing recommendations, including one where he is maskless and shaking hands with officials indoors. Source

• Protests over France’s COVID policies in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe turned violent, triggered by anger about inequality, mistrust, and anger at being overlooked by the French government. Over 30 people were arrested for violence or looting, and riot police tear gassed demonstrators who oppose mandated vaccines for healthcare workers and implementation of a health pass, which is necessary to enter restaurants, museums and other public places and only available to people who are fully vaccinated or have proof that they have recovered from COVID-19 – or those who test negative (at their own expense).

Guadeloupe has long felt overlooked by policymakers in Paris for decades, with grievances about unemployment, high living costs and dysfunctional public utilities. Mistrust of public health policies is high, after the French government authorized a toxic pesticide on banana plantations and continued to use it, despite multiple health warnings. People are afraid, they have no trust,” said Harry Durimel, the mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre, adding that they were “ready for a confrontation” over vaccine rules if they felt they were being forced “to inject a product in their body.” Currently, 40 percent of Guadeloupe’s population is fully vaccinated.

French President Emmanuel Macron described the protests as “…a very explosive situation, tied to a very local context, to historical tensions that we know of,” as he accused some of the government’s critics of “using this context and these anxieties” to aggravate the situation. Source

• In Kenya, where less than 5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, and limited funding has left the country with few awareness campaigns or vaccination sites, the government has announced a policy requiring proof of vaccination to visit hospitals, prisons, restaurants, bars, national parks and any business serving 50 or more people daily, which will start in December. Mutahi Kagwe, the cabinet secretary for health, said that he hoped new rules would persuade more people to get their shots. But the measure has triggered outrage and criticism from the general public, lawyers and activists. “It’s clearly unconstitutional,” said Waikwa Wanyoike, a prominent constitutional lawyer, “The requirement may be right in terms of asking as many people to be vaccinated but the approach is wrong.” Source

• According to the US CDC, COVID-19 deaths in 2021 have already outstripped those reported in 2020, despite the advent of vaccines. To date, there have been 386,226 COVID-19 deaths this year; 2020’s total was 385,343. Source

• WHO predicts that more COVID-19 deaths in Europe could top two million by March 2022. COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death across Europe; deaths in the region have doubled from 2,100 deaths a day at the end of September to 4,200, driven by low vaccination rates in some areas, the highly transmissible Delta variant, and the relaxation of preventive measures in some countries.

WHO recommends maintaining personal protective measures, noting that only 48 percent of people in the region report wearing a mask when leaving home. A recent study suggested that mask wearing reduces COVID-19 incidence by 53%. Immediate and universal masking across the region, with coverage of 95% could save an estimated 160 000 lives by 1 March 2022. Source

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