Washington (AFP)

Virtual parade and calls for limited gatherings, Americans are celebrating a Thanksgiving Thursday tarnished by the new embrace of the epidemic in the country, while Europe slightly eased its restrictions despite a caveat: the AstraZeneca / university vaccine Oxford requires "further study".

Pandemic obliges, the famous Thanksgiving parade with giant balloons which usually brings together millions of people in the streets of New York, was held without an audience.

It aired online, with much of the animation being filmed in advance.

Following, like many of his compatriots, the recommendations of the health authorities, President-elect Joe Biden did not come but he spent this family celebration in his stronghold of Delaware (northeast) in a small committee with his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law.

"It is a personal sacrifice that every family can and must make to save someone else's life. It is a sacrifice for the whole country," he added.

The former vice-president, however, sought to reassure his fellow citizens.

"We're going to get out of this together, even if we have to be apart," he said in a column published by CNN.

A sign of political divisions on how to manage the pandemic and the end-of-year celebrations, President Donald Trump on Wednesday encouraged "all Americans to come together, at home and in places of worship" during his Thanksgiving proclamation.

The Republican billionaire, who spent his Thursday morning golfing, is expected to join the Trump family for a White House dinner, according to the First Lady's spokesperson.

Faced with these contradictory injunctions, nearly seven million people have still flown in the United States over the last seven days, according to data from the TSA agency, in charge of security checks at airports, an increase of 22% compared to the previous week.

But the family reunion, around the traditional stuffed turkey, accompanied by sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce, will not have the same flavor this year as the country has just recorded more than 2,400 deaths from the coronavirus in 24 hours, a highest for six months.

The most bereaved country in the world by the new coronavirus, with more than 262,000 dead since the onset of the disease, the United States could see the number of deaths increase to 321,000 by December 19, according to the latest screening of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

On the planet, more than 60 million cases of Covid-19 have been officially counted since the start of the pandemic, and nearly 1.4 million people have died from it.

- Cacophony on the ski -

Western Europe is starting to reap the benefits of severe containment, however, and several countries are gradually loosening the shackles as Christmas approaches.

If the health situation continues to improve, confinement in France will be lifted on December 15 to be replaced by a national curfew, with an exception for the evenings of December 24 and 31.

It will be "imperative" to limit the number of guests at these New Years Eve parties, French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned Thursday, detailing the three-step cuts announced two days earlier by President Emmanuel Macron.

Small businesses will be able to reopen on Saturday, and travel will be permitted within a radius of 20 km and for three hours.

On the other hand, bars, restaurants and sports halls will keep their doors closed, at least until January 20.

After four weeks of containment, England will also reopen non-essential stores in early December and conduct a massive screening program, but the vast majority of residents will continue to live under strict restrictions.

"This cannot be a normal Christmas," warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

On the other hand, there is no question of relaxing the efforts for the moment in Greece, which extended the confinement until December 7, nor in Germany.

The restrictions decided in November will continue to apply in Germany until the beginning of January.

"Unless we have an unexpected decrease in the infection rate but it is unlikely at this stage," Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Having invited its population not to go abroad during the Christmas holidays, in particular to skiing, Germany will ask the European Union to ban stays in winter sports resorts until January 10. , conducive to the spread of the virus.

But neighboring Austria is on another line and plans to open its tracks.

In France, the stations may reopen during the holidays but the ski lifts will remain closed.

- Additional study -

The pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc: statistics released Thursday show that both German consumers and French households are in low spirits.

Many countries are counting on the arrival of vaccines in late December or early 2021 to consider a gradual return to normal.

But uncertainties remain: the vaccine developed by the British laboratory AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford requires "an additional study" said Thursday the chief executive of the group, after criticism of the results announced.

On average 70% efficient, this result actually hides large differences between two different protocols.

Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday broke a new record for daily infections and deaths, and South Korea on the same day reported the highest number of new cases since March.

burx-phy / dax / sl / fjb

© 2020 AFP