Freedom Convoy spreads across Europe from Vienna, Paris and now Brussels

Proverbs 22:8 “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.”

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘They Can’t Stop Us’: Freedom Convoy Rolls into EU’s Capital Despite Government Ban
  • A Freedom Convoy of anti-mandate motorists is arriving in Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, despite authorities banning the demonstration.
  • Some 1,300 vehicles are on the move into capital of the European Union Brussels
  • Authorities in charge of other European cities, such as Paris and Vienna, have made similar attempts to ban demos styled on anti-mandatory vaccine protests in Canada, though all so far have been futile.
  • While authorities in Belgium have issued a ban on the forthcoming anti-lockdown protest in the nation’s capital, the nation has also seemingly acquiesced to calls for the country to loosen its lockdown restrictions.
  • From February 18, rules regarding the closure of establishments after a certain time, as well as the mandatory wearing of masks are set to be loosened.
  • “Today, we are taking a huge step forward. We are returning to normalcy,” Politico reports Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s Prime Minister

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Freedom Convoy spreads, thousands descend on Paris

Proverbs 22:8 “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Nearly 360,000 protesters descend on Paris in convoy against vaccine mandates
  • Taking inspiration from Canada’s Freedom Convoy, French truckers and protesters have taken to the streets of Paris to protest vaccine mandates in a convoy that has already come into conflict with French authorities
  • Labeled “Le Convoi de la Liberte,” the convoy is made up of trucks, cars, and motorcycles.
  • The convoy made its way to Paris from southern France, but more convoys are anticipated to arrive in the capital from other parts of the country, the report noted.
  • Similar movements have begun taking shape in Australia and New Zealand, according to the report.

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Paris attacks suspect tells trial he’s “an Islamic State soldier”

By Tangi Salaün and Yiming Woo

PARIS (Reuters) -The main suspect in a jihadist rampage that killed 130 people across Paris described himself on Wednesday as “an Islamic State soldier” at the start of the long-awaited trial into the 2015 attacks.

Salah Abdeslam, 31, appeared in court dressed in black and wearing a black face mask, one of 20 men accused of involvement in the gun-and-bomb attacks on six restaurants and bars, the Bataclan concert hall and a sports stadium on Nov. 13, 2015.

Asked what his profession was, the French-Moroccan removed his face mask – obligatory because of the COVID-19 pandemic – and told a Paris court defiantly: “I gave up my job to become an Islamic State soldier.”

Abdeslam is believed to be the only surviving member of the group that carried out the attacks. The other suspects are accused of helping to provide guns and cars or playing a role in organizing the attacks, in which hundreds were also injured.

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by Islamic State, which had urged followers to attack France over its involvement in the fight against the militant group in Iraq and Syria.

Asked by the court’s top judge to give his name, Abdeslam used the Shahada, an Islamic oath, saying: “I want to testify that there is no god except Allah and that Mohammad is his servant.”

Jean-Pierre Albertini, whose 39-year old son, Stephane, was killed in the Bataclan, told Reuters the reference to being an Islamic State soldier meant “we have in front of us … someone who is at war.”

Thierry Mallet, a Bataclan survivor, said: “I need more to be shocked … I’m not afraid.”

IMPATIENT AND ANXIOUS

Before the trial, survivors and relatives of the victims had said they were impatient to hear testimony that might help them better understand what happened and why it did so, and that they were also anxious.

“It is important that the victims can bear witness, can tell the perpetrators, the suspects who are on the stand, about the pain,” said Philippe Duperron, whose 30-year-old son Thomas was killed in the attacks.

“We are also awaiting anxiously because we know that as this trial takes place the pain, the events, everything will come back to the surface,” said Duperron, who is the president of a victims’ association and will testify at the trial.

The trial will last nine months, with about 1,800 plaintiffs and more than 300 lawyers taking part in what Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti has called an unprecedented judicial marathon. The court’s top judge, Jean-Louis Peries, said it was a historic trial.

The 20 defendants include 11 who are already in jail pending trial. Six will be tried in absentia – most of them are believed to be dead. Most face life imprisonment if convicted.

Police mounted tight security around the Palais de Justice courthouse in central Paris. Defendants will appear behind a reinforced glass partition in a purpose-built courtroom and all people must pass through several checkpoints to enter the court.

“The terrorist threat in France is high, especially at times like the attacks’ trial,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France Inter radio.

The first days of the trial are expected to be largely procedural, with plaintiffs being registered, though judges may read a summary of how the attacks unfolded.

Victims’ testimonies are set to start on Sept. 28, with one week devoted to the attacks on the Stade de France and cafes, and four to the Bataclan.

The questioning of the accused will start in November but they are not set to be questioned about the night of the attacks and the week before them until March.

A verdict is expected in late May.

(Reporting by Tangi Salaun, Michaela Cabrera, Antony Paone, Benoit Van Overstraeten, Ingrid Melander, Blandine Henault; Writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Philippa Fletcher, William Maclean and Timothy Heritage)

Eerily silent Paris CDG marks Easter without air travel rush

By Tim Hepher and Christian Hartmann

PARIS (Reuters) – Easter at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport typically starts two weeks early as extra staff are trained to cope with one of the busiest weekends of the year. On Friday, an eerie calm pervaded Europe’s largest airport as France slides back into lockdown.

Instead of crowded check-ins and relentless take-offs and landings, rows of unused trolleys and redundant queuing barriers greeted visitors to one of the world’s busiest transport hubs.

“It’s nothing like what you would normally see,” said Amor, who has worked at the airport for 20 years, organizing check-in zones and passenger assistance for an airport sub-contractor.

“The airport would be full of people going to Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt for the spring holidays. We handled a Tunisia flight yesterday and there were 80 people,” he said. Air France typically serves Tunis with 150-seat jets.

Charles de Gaulle on Thursday handled 18.1% of the number of passengers seen on the same day in 2019, Aeroports de Paris said.

Adjusting for different dates for Easter, throughput on the few open concourses is closer to 20-25% of a usual Easter.

The enforced lull is more striking given that the airport’s 11 terminals have been condensed into two during the pandemic, though some were already closed for maintenance.

Terminal 2E, usually used by Air France and partners for U.S. flights, is handling all long-range traffic, throwing competing carriers from across the globe into a shared space.

A dedicated check-in zone for business class – worst hit by the coronavirus travel crisis – has been suspended and a large COVID-19 testing area takes up one end of the vast hall.

Europe’s border-free Schengen area is served opposite at 2F.

JOBS AT RISK

Charles de Gaulle airport, built in wheat fields northeast of Paris, has seen explosive growth since the first jumbo touched down from New York in 1974.

Terminal 2 opened in 1982 as a hub for Air France, with its undulating modular design shortening the time from gate to curb.

The original 2B was closed for repairs before the crisis but much of the rest of the Terminal 2 complex has been transformed from a snarl of traffic jams to a bowl of deserted concrete.

The global travel slump has cast a shadow over the local economy where 100,000 people work at Charles de Gaulle, a major employer in the capital’s depressed northern suburbs.

Airport staff say less than half of those people are actively working this Easter, with the rest on furlough or finding that the usual temporary jobs have not materialized.

Up to 30,000 jobs could disappear for good, the deputy head of Paris CDG Alliance, which groups the airport’s largest employers and regional government agencies, told Le Monde newspaper.

That contrasts with crowded scenes observed this week in China and the United States, two fast-recovering markets.

On Thursday, the U.S. screened 1.56 million air travelers, 65% of the comparable 2019 level, official data showed.

In Europe, progress in pushing back a third wave of coronavirus infections has been widely described as patchy. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered France into its third national lockdown.

With Easter already a wash-out, the airline industry is fretting over bookings for summer. Experts say a second lost summer would threaten more bankruptcies..

The drop in passenger numbers means fewer staff from security to cleaners and wheel-chair attendants. Check-in for one Gulf airline now uses 4 agents per flight rather than 7.

Inconsistent border rules for dealing with the pandemic further complicate the planning.

“For Denmark and Sweden we have to have 5-6 agents to check the paperwork rather than the normal two,” one employee said.

On the airport’s most southerly runway, the morning wave of long-haul jets continued to arrive on Friday from as far away as Buenos Aires, Taipei or Douala. But industry statistics show such international flights are much emptier than usual.

International travel is expected to lag short-haul trips in any eventual recovery, hobbled by a video-conferencing craze.

“Zoom is doing well,” said an airline employee who specializes in looking after premium customers.

Still, some export-dependent companies are beginning to test the water, fearing Russian, Chinese or U.S. competition.

“We have to start moving again and keep doing business,” said Marc Vacher, a production executive at French energy services company Idex, arriving early for a flight to Ukraine.

“You can’t go without face-to-face contact with customers; otherwise, it is harder to catch up later,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost, Tracy Rucinski, David Shepardson; editing by Barbara Lewis)

COVID curbs having less impact at keeping Parisians at home: data

By Caroline Pailliez and Leigh Thomas

PARIS (Reuters) – The French government’s anti-COVID-19 measures are having half the impact in encouraging Parisians to stay at home as the restrictions in France’s first lockdown, data shows, underscoring why epidemiologists say the curbs are too weak to stop a third wave of infection over-running hospitals.

Google data shows residents in the capital, the epicenter of a fast-spreading third wave of infections, are spending just 20% more time at home than during pre-crisis times, compared with 40% during the strict three-month lockdown last spring.

The data reflects the tough reality confronting President Emmanuel Macron, who, according to one source close to the government, will have to decide on Wednesday whether to resort once again to a draconian lockdown that risks upending economic activity.

“We have to limit the spread of the virus and we won’t do that with these half-measures,” said Gilles Pialoux, head of infectious diseases at the Tenon hospital in Paris.

The government closed some non-essential stores and limited how far people could travel, adding to a nationwide nightly curfew, in the hardest hit regions on March 20.

While Apple Maps data shows a slight fall in journeys made by car, public transport or on foot, people remain on the move more than during either the spring or autumn lockdowns.

To be sure, part of this is by design. Macron wants to keep the euro zone’s second largest economy open and allow citizens to spend time outdoors. But it also underlines the extent to which government appeals for people to voluntarily restrict their movements are falling on deaf ears.

Intensive care wards are reaching breaking point. In Paris, there are now more COVID-19 patients in ICUs than at the peak of the second wave in November, and critical care wards are operating at 140% of normal bed capacity.

‘CRUSH THE VIRUS’

Macron will convene his COVID-19 war room on Wednesday at a time the surge in coronavirus infections is dragging the death count towards the 100,000 threshold.

The president has this year repeatedly sought to avoid another lockdown, counting on COVID-19 vaccines to reduce the numbers falling gravely ill.

But the vaccine rollout is only now hitting its stride, with about 12% of the population inoculated after three months. Meanwhile, the science shows a vaccinated person can still transmit the virus and it will not be until late summer before all adults have been offered a shot.

“You absolutely first have to crush the virus’ prevalence,” said Philippe Amouyel, head of epidemiology at Lille Hospital, “then afterwards comes the vaccine.”

A full-blown lockdown would entail closing schools and prohibiting people from leaving their home other than for essential reasons such as buying groceries, seeking medical help and exercise.

No decision has yet been taken, a government source said.

If a strict lockdown was imposed across France, the number of intensive care patients in the Paris region would peak at about 3,470 on April 22, according to Paris hospital trust forecasts that Reuters has seen.

If the decision was delayed by one week, that number would rise to 4,470 on April 29, the model predicts. During the first wave, ICU admissions peaked at 2,668.

Police unions told Reuters a full lockdown would be easier to enforce than the unwieldy array of rules now in place.

Last weekend crowds thronged the banks of the Seine in Paris. Police urged picnickers to sit apart but there was little evidence of checks being made on whether people had travelled further than the permitted 10 km (6.2 miles) to be there.

“We see that people now have a little less respect for the rules,” said Denis Jacob of the CFDT union’s police branch. “But it’s very difficult to enforce this set of rules.”

(Reporting by Caroline Pailliez and Leigh Thomas; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

‘Oh no, not again!’ – Parisians shudder at new COVID lockdown

By Yiming Woo and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) – Camila Campodonico was at work in Paris on Thursday evening when the government announced the city was entering a new lockdown to combat COVID-19, and she knew her plans for a get-together with friends this weekend were over.

“I heard that and I said: ‘Oh no, not again. A lockdown.’ I wasn’t very happy,” said Campodonico, a student from Argentina who is working temporarily for a marketing company.

With intensive care units close to overflowing, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that Paris residents could only leave home for essential trips or exercise, and non-essential travel to other parts of the country was banned.

Large numbers of Paris residents headed to railway stations on Friday morning so they could get out of the city before the restrictions, due to last for a month, come into force at midnight.

At the Gare de l’Est station in Paris, there were long lines of people at the ticket office. People, some with pets, rushed to board trains heading for Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

Valentino Armilli, 27, was going to visit his parents in Thionville, in the Lorraine region in eastern France, for the weekend. He took the decision to go there on Thursday night, because of the new lockdown.

“My parents had COVID a month ago and I have not seen them since. This weekend is the last time for a long while that I’ll be able to see them,” he said.

At the Montparnasse train station, Anna Henry, a 21-year-old student, said she had decided to go to her parents’ place in Brittany, western France, describing the latest Paris lockdown as “a bit too much”.

Anthony Massat, 23, also a student, was catching a train to Toulouse in south-western France: “There’s no lockdown in the south, so it will be a bit more free.”

(Additional reporting by Lucien Libert; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones)

COVID-19 situation in Paris area extremely tense: French PM

PARIS (Reuters) – The COVID-19 situation in the Paris region is extremely tense and authorities are ready to take new measures, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday, but he did not announce a tightening of curfew or new regional lockdowns.

Despite rising COVID-19 cases, the administration of President Emmanuel Macron has not to date declared a new national lockdown, opting instead to tighten measures locally in hard-hit towns like Nice and Dunkirk, but Paris has been spared so far.

“I call on everyone, and especially those who live in the capital, to be extremely careful, wear the mask and respect social distancing. The aim is to reduce the pressure on the hospital system,” Castex said during a visit to a hospital.

The number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units on Friday exceeded 4,000 for the first time since Nov. 26, with nearly 1,100 COVID-19 patients in ICUs in the Paris region alone.

In Paris and the surrounding region, healthcare managers say the intensive care units are close to being overloaded.

Castex said that in the Ile-de-France region around Paris the vaccination campaign would be sped up this weekend, with the delivery of 25,000 extra doses.

France’s vaccination program has been hampered by logistical bottlenecks and problems with deliveries from vaccine manufacturers but Castex said the campaign was speeding up, with 320,326 shots administered on Friday, a new record.

As of Friday, 7.04 million people – more than one tenth of the French population — had been vaccinated, official figures showed, including 2.22 million second injections.

(Reporting by GV De Clercq; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Kirsten Donovan)

Stranded truckers fume as they wait to leave UK after COVID blockade

By Peter Nicholls and Gerry Mey

DOVER, England (Reuters) – Furious truck drivers stranded at the English port of Dover scuffled with police as Britain sought to get cross-Channel traffic moving after a partial blockade by France to contain a highly infectious coronavirus variant.

Paris and London agreed late on Tuesday that drivers carrying a negative test result could board ferries for Calais from Wednesday after much of the world shut its borders to Britain to contain the new mutated variant.

The British government has drafted in the military to help but there was confusion amongst drivers about how to get tests, and warnings it would take time to clear the backlog of trucks, hammering Britain’s most important trade route for food just days before it leaves the European Union’s orbit.

“Testing has begun as we look to get traffic moving again between the UK and France,” British transport minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter. “However, French border police only acting on agreement from this morning and severe delays continue.”

Huge queues of trucks have been stacked on a motorway towards the Eurotunnel Channel Tunnel and on roads to Dover in the southeast county of Kent, while others have been parked up at the former nearby airport at Manston.

With no sign of traffic to the European mainland resuming and confusion over how to get a coronavirus test, tempers were beginning to flare among drivers, many from Eastern Europe who do not speak English and are angry that they will not be able to get home to their families before Christmas.

Police said there had been disturbances in Dover and Manston “involving individuals hoping to cross the Channel” and one arrest had been made.

“This is not how it should work. We have no information, the people need to be fetching information,” Mekki Coskun from Dortmund in Germany, told Reuters.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he had been in touch with Britain’s Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron about the jam.

“This can be done differently. This whole process could’ve been better organized,” he said.

The Road Haulage Association, which estimated there were up to 10,000 trucks being held up in Kent, said it was chaotic.

“The border is still closed, the testing regime isn’t happening yet, you’ve got truckers very angry and we’re starting to see a breakdown in law and order in a small way among very frustrated guys who want to get back by Christmas,” Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy for the RHA, said.

Normally between 7,500-8,500 trucks travel via the port every day but volumes have reached more than 10,000 recently.

Getlink, the operator of the Channel Tunnel, said just 45 trucks had reached France between midnight and 1100 GMT.

FURTHER BREXIT DISRUPTION

Some of the extra traffic was a result of Christmas demand, but many were in the country to deliver goods to companies who are stockpiling parts before Britain finally leaves the EU on Dec. 31, a move that is expected to cause further disruption in January when a full customs border comes into force.

The British Retail Consortium, an industry lobby group, warned that until the backlog of trucks was cleared and supply chains returned to normal, there could be issues with the availability of some fresh goods.

Logistics firms have also said that many European drivers had already refused to come to Britain in the new year when they would have to carry customs paperwork, and the need to secure a coronavirus test will further compound the situation, pushing up freight prices.

Drivers will first take a rapid lateral flow test. Anyone who records a positive result will take a more comprehensive PCR test, which takes longer to secure a result, and anyone testing positive again will be given a hotel room to isolate.

Many of the mostly European drivers, many stranded with their trucks and without access to hot food or bathroom facilities, believe they are pawns in a political standoff between Britain and the EU as trade talks reach a climax.

“We don’t have food to eat, we don’t have drink, we don’t have anything, nobody … cares about us,” said Stella Vradzheva a driver from Sterlcha in Bulgaria.

(Additional reporting by James Davey, Joanna Plucinska, and Yiming Woo; Writing by Kate Holton and Michael Holden; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alison Williams)

France promises 1 billion euros for curfew-hit companies

PARIS (Reuters) – Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire promised 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion) of additional support to help French companies cushion the impact of a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other big cities where the coronavirus is running rampant.

Le Maire also said that companies in the beleaguered hospitality industry would be exempt from social charges if their revenues crashed by more than 50% as a result of the curfews.

The curfews are President Emmanuel Macron’s response to a dilemma facing countries across Europe: how to keep the economy running and protect jobs while slowing the spread of infections and taking pressure off the creaking healthcare systems.

“The new measures will cost about 1 billion euros over the duration of the curfew,” Le Maire told a news conference.

Le Maire also said he was asking banks to delay interest payments on state-guaranteed loans to struggling companies in the hotel, restaurant and events industries.

The French banking lobby, FBF, said in emailed comment to Reuters that “banks share the idea that flexibility should be the rule”.

French banks have given out more than 120 billion euros in state-backed loans so far this year. FBF added that a permanent dialogue between companies and their bankers was essential in order to find the best solution for reimbursement of the loans.

“Banks are confident in their ability to act, as they did during the deployment of PGE (state-backed loans), in a perfect coordination with public authorities and businesses,” FBF said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said people could break the curfew to travel to and from work, catch a train or plane, seek medical attention and even walk a dog – but an interior ministry exemption document would be needed in case of a police check.

France’s interior minister said 12,000 police would enforce the curfews in Paris, Toulouse, Marseille, Montpellier, Grenoble, Rouen, Lille, Lyon and Saint-Etienne. In all, the curfew order covers about 20 million people, almost a third of France’s population.

Anyone breaking the curfew will be fined 135 euros

(Reporting by Geert de Clercq; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by John Stonestreet and Tomasz Janowski and Kirsten Donovan)

French labs show how global supply bottlenecks thwart effort to ramp up testing

By Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) – Mass testing was meant to be the answer to the second wave. Politicians promised that with enough tests, conducted quickly enough, they could keep the coronavirus in check, without having to resort to lockdowns that crippled economies six months ago.

But so far, with a surge sweeping Europe just as students return to school and university, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. There aren’t enough tests, and they are taking too long.

Pierre-Adrien Bihl, who runs four labs that together conduct 800 tests a day in eastern France, has one explanation for what has gone wrong: a global supply chain that can’t keep up.

“I spend my days checking orders have been made and received and hassling my supplier to deliver, deliver, deliver,” he said. “But all their clients demand the same thing.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, like other European leaders, has pressed for a swift increase in tests. His government promises that anyone who needs a test can get one.

But five companies that operate laboratories in Paris and eastern France told Reuters there was simply no way they could work any faster, as long as they are struggling to obtain chemicals and test kits that are mainly produced abroad.

This week, Bihl said, he had to take his diagnostic machine offline for nearly 24 hours, after a four-day delay in the delivery of some single-use parts.

The shutdown forced Bihl to reduce testing appointments until the backlog could be made up, he said, adding that such shutdowns were taking place three or four times a month.

Arthur Clement, who runs four laboratories, said the U.S. manufacturer of his diagnostic machine, Cepheid, was sending him just 300 test kits per month at the end of the summer, as cases surged.

With his labs performing 25,000 tests per month, Clement had to send nearly all of them out to a third party, where they were taking up to 7-10 days to get results. Cepheid did not respond to a request for comment.

Clement ordered a new diagnostic machine from a South Korean manufacturer two months ago, which finally arrived last Friday, and now he says he can perform all tests in-house and deliver results in a day.

GLOBAL MARKET

In Paris, queues snake out of testing centers each day, with lines forming before sunrise at some. People with COVID symptoms are waiting on average three days for their results, according to official data, though for some the wait can be double.

France is now conducting more than 1.2 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests per week in response to the epidemic, which has killed more than 31,000 people in the country and infected nearly half a million.

The French health ministry denies that there is a nationwide shortage of chemicals. It says there have been localized shortages in some parts of the country, but the overall supply is adequate. Health Minister Olivier Veran has said France has access to supplies of reagents equivalent to double the actual demand for tests.

But laboratories can’t just order chemicals from anywhere: testing machines typically require proprietary chemical kits and tools, some of which can be obtained only from the manufacturer.

The ministry recommends laboratories diversify their suppliers of testing machines, to mitigate the risk of one supply chain becoming blocked. But that means buying extra machines to duplicate capacity, which costs more money and can take months.

Suppliers of the machines to French labs include Cepheid and Becton Dickinson in the United States, Switzerland’s Roche, and France’s Biomerieux and Eurobio Scientific.

Cepheid, Roche and Eurobio Scientific did not respond to requests for comment on the supply of COVID equipment and reagents.

Becton Dickinson told Reuters in an email it was delivering more than 1 million tests per month globally. It acknowledged that this has fallen short of demand, but said it aims to scale up to 1.9 million per month by late 2020.

Biomerieux said its sites in France had spare capacity.

Lionel Barrand, one of the five laboratory operators who spoke to Reuters, said the supply-chain crunch was partly rooted in France’s reliance on imported reagents. He estimated 90% of COVID-19 reagents used in France were sourced overseas.

“We depend heavily on the global market,” said Barrand, who heads a laboratory industry group, the Syndicat National des Jeunes Biologistes.

Some of the French laboratories worry that U.S. suppliers such as Cepheid and Becton Dickinson are prioritizing labs in the United States, where healthcare costs are higher and profit margins bigger.

Becton Dickinson said it allocates test kits using quotas, which are set on the basis of the number of its testing machines in a country and the severity of outbreaks.

“We do not use pricing, margins or profit as a factor in our allocations,” the company said.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Peter Graff)