Several European nations have put into effect new measures and restrictions in an effort to curb the second wave of the coronavirus rapidly spreading across the continent, with cases skyrocketing.
Much of Europe has introduced measures such as shutting or ordering early closing of bars, but now the surging infection rates are also testing the resolve of governments to keep schools and non-COVID medical care running.
On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned her citizens to expect ‘difficult months ahead’ as the country posted a new daily record of over 7,800 new coronavirus cases, and urged Germans to come together like they did in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
‘Difficult months are ahead of us,’ she said in her weekly video podcast. ‘How winter will be, how our Christmas will be – that will all be decided in these coming days and weeks, and it will be decided by our behaviour.’
In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to announce another set of measures on Sunday to counter the new wave of COVID-19 cases, his office said, with school closures being considered. The also country registered a new daily record of infections on Saturday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) has told her citizens that ‘difficult months are ahead of us’ as Covid-19 cases continue to rise rapidly in the country lauded for its response to the virus. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (right) is expected to announce another set of measures on Sunday to counter the new wave of COVID-19 cases, his office said, with school closures being considered
Europe surpassed 150,000 daily coronavirus cases on Friday – just a week after reporting 100,000 cases in one day for the first time since the start of the pandemic – with The United Kingdom, France, Russia, Netherlands, Germany and Spain accounting for about half of Europe’s new cases this week, according to a Reuters tally.
While Europe is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined, the increase is partly explained by far more testing being done than during the first wave in the spring.
France, Germany and Italy all recorded a record number of new daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, with France reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 21,210 infections per day.
In the United Kingdom, a seven-day average of 16,228 new cases per day is being reported, and the country has introduced a tiered system of tougher restrictions in some areas.
Europe surpassed 150,000 daily coronavirus cases on Friday – just a week after reporting 100,000 cases in one day for the first time since the start of the pandemic. While Europe as a whole is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined, the increase is partly explained by far more testing being done than during the first wave. Pictured: Graphs showing the 7-day average number of coronavirus related cases (top) and deaths (bottom) per million people
Germany, which was widely lauded for being able to slow the spread of the pandemic when it first broke out, has recently seen numbers climbing rapidly.
On Saturday, the country’s disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 7,830 cases overnight, a new record in Germany.
Like most countries, Germany has been grappling with how to keep schools and businesses open, while trying to prevent people from coming into close contact with one another.
In total, Germany has registered a total of 356,387 coronavirus cases, though a relatively low 9,767 deaths when compared with other major western European nations.
With the numbers again rising, however, Mrs Merkel urged Germans to avoid unnecessary travel, cancel parties and remain at home whenever it is possible.
‘What brought us so well through the first half year of the pandemic?’ she asked. ‘It was that we stood together and obeyed the rules out of consideration and common sense.
‘This is the most effective remedy we currently have against the pandemic, and it is more necessary now than ever.’
‘We have to go further,’ Merkel said. ‘I appeal to you: meet with fewer people, either at home or outside. Please forsake any journey that is not absolutely essential, every party that is not absolutely essential. Stay at home, where at all possible.’
Pictured: People wait outside a Berlin bar displaying a sign with question marks in place of its closing time after a Berlin court suspended an order for bars and restaurants to close from 11pm to 6am
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (pictured) has gone into quarantine after a bodyguard tested positive for Covid-19, joining a number of key European political figures that have come into close contact with the virus
Merkel’s appeal came as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier went into quarantine after a bodyguard tested positive for coronavirus, his office said. Steinmeier, whose role is largely ceremonial, has also been tested and is awaiting the result.
German leaders have been unable to agree on tougher measures to contain a second wave. Courts in several regions have, meanwhile, overturned bans on hotel stays for visitors from infection hotspots.
Politicians and health experts have appealed to the public to take voluntary measures over and above those already prescribed – including wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing.
Merkel’s comments come the day after a Berlin court suspended an order for bars and restaurants to close from 11pm to 6am after finding that ‘it was not apparent’ such a measure could help fight coronavirus.
Ruling on a case brought by 11 restaurant owners, the administrative court noted that new infections in Germany currently stem from private gatherings of family and friends, at community facilities, meat-processing plants, religious gatherings or in connection with travel.
Closing food and drink establishments was therefore a ‘disproportionate encroachment on the freedom’ of the industry, the court ruled.
German authorities must now decide if they want to take the issue to a higher court to force bars and restaurants to close.
Meanwhile, Europe surpassed 150,000 daily cases on Friday – just a week after reporting 100,000 cases in one day for the first time.
The unwanted milestone comes as new restrictions went into effect in several other European nations in an effort to staunch the resurgence of the pandemic.
On Friday, the World Health Organisation warned that intensive care units in a number of European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks if the number of infections is not slowed.
In Paris and eight other French cities, restaurants, bars, movie theatres and other establishments were being forced to close no later than 9pm to try to reduce contact among people.
The country is deploying 12,000 extra police officers to enforce the new rules as many restaurant owners bristle at the order. An earlier months-long lockdown devastated the sector.
‘I have the right to question the government’s approach, I think it’s a catastrophic measure for the industry,’ said Xavier Denamur, who owns Les Philosophes and several other bistros in Paris’s chic Le Marais district, saying that if nothing else, the curfew should be 11 p.m.
‘At least that would not destroy us,’ he said. ‘There’s no evidence that this difference of a couple of hours will have any effect on the virus circulating.’
On Saturday, the French health ministry also reported a record number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 32,427, after reporting 25,086 on Friday.
The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 867,197 while the total number of deaths stands at 33,392, up by 90 from Friday.
In Paris and eight other French cities, restaurants, bars, movie theatres and other establishments were being forced to close no later than 9pm. Pictured: People spend time in a restaurant in Paris ahead of the 9pm curfew
A street lies empty in Paris after the 9pm curfew in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus
On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to announce another set of measures to counter the new wave of COVID-19 cases, his office said, after the country registered a new daily record in infections on Saturday.
Conte’s office said the government is discussing new restrictions with local and health authorities, aiming to stem contagion while limiting the impact on individuals and businesses.
The country is reportedly considering imposing a nationwide curfew and closing high schools, with officials set to meet on Saturday evening to discuss the measure, which would see cafes and restaurants close from 10pm.
Cinemas could also be closed, and football matches – both professional and amateur – are expected to be banned under the measures, while only emergency and essential travel will be allowed.
Italy was the first major European country to be hit by COVID-19 and had managed to get the outbreak under control by the summer thanks to a rigid two-month lockdown on business and people’s movement. But infections have soared in recent weeks.
The country posted 10,925 new infections on Saturday, according to the health ministry, its highest daily tally so far, up from the previous record of 10,010 cases posted on Friday.
People sit at a bar by the Colosseum lighten up for the 75th anniversary of the FAO (food and agricolture Organization) in central Rome on October 16. Residents in Rome fear a return to the strict country-wide restrictions that were imposed when the virus was spreading out of control
Government ministers have ruled out a repeat of the lockdown imposed at the start of the crisis but officials have looked at a range of alternative measures to reduce social contact.
The head of the northwestern region of Liguria, Giovanni Toti, said on Facebook the government would urge schools to alternate between online and in-person lessons and tell companies to increase remote working.
The government has already toughened restrictions twice in 10 days, making wearing masks mandatory outside the home and imposing limitations on public gatherings, restaurants, sports, and some school activities, with schools in some areas already closing, sparking protests.
According to Italian newspapers, the new restrictions could also target non-essential activities including gyms, pools and amateur sporting events.
Pictured: Parents, children and teachers gathered to protest against the schools closure and call for the reopening of all schools in the Campania Region
President of the Campania Region Vincenzo De Luca ordered the closure of schools of all levels and universities throughout the region. The reason for this decision is the growing number of Covid-19 positives throughout the Campania region
In the Vatican, officials said someone who lives in the same Vatican hotel as Pope Francis tested positive for coronavirus, adding to the 11 cases of Covid-19 among the Swiss Guards who protect him.
The hotel serves as a residence for Vatican-based priests as well as visiting clerics and lay people. Francis chose to live there permanently after his 2013 election, shunning the Apostolic Palace, because he said he needed to be around ordinary people. The hotel has a communal dining room and chapel where Francis celebrates Mass each morning.
The Vatican, a tiny city state in the center of Rome, has beefed up its anti-COVID-19 measures amid a resurgence of the outbreak in Italy. Protective masks are required indoors and out, but Francis has largely shunned them even when holding audiences with the public.
At 83 and with part of a lung removed when he was in his 20s due to illness, the pope would be at high-risk for COVID-19 complications.
Last week, the Vatican confirmed a cluster of 11 cases among the Swiss Guards who serve as ceremonial guards at papal Masses, guard the Vatican City gates and protect the pope.
Italy’s northern Lombardy region, where the European coronavirus outbreak began in late February, has taken new measures to contain rebounding infections, limiting bar service and alcohol sales, banning contact sports and closing bingo parlours.
Someone who lives in the same Vatican hotel as the Pope (pictured left) tested positive for the coronavirus, officials confirmed today
The regional government also called for high schools to adopt hybrid schedules, with students alternating in-person with online learning.
The measures were taken after Lombardy, Italy’s most populous region, once again become the most affected in the Covid-19 resurgence, adding more than 2,000 infections a day. Hospitals are coming under strain and intensive care units are filling up.
The new measures allow only table service for bars from 6pm, ban takeout alcohol sales from that time and prohibit all consumption of drink in public spaces, an effort to eliminate crowds from forming in piazzas with takeout drinks.
Italy’s other hardest-hit region, southern Campania, has taken similarly strict measures, including a shutdown of schools for two weeks. After parents protested, the regional governor backed off on Friday and allowed daycare centres to remain open.
In the capital, Rome, residents grumbled as numbers climbed, fearing a return to the strict country-wide restrictions that were imposed when the virus was spreading out of control.
‘The situation is critical thanks to the morons, because I call them morons, who have not respected the rules,’ said resident Mario Massenzi.
‘And if we fall back into the same situation as in March, we are finished.’