The outbreaks have raised alarm across Europe, which suffered greatly in the spring but appears to have largely tamed the coronavirus in recent months in a way that the United States, with its vaunted scientific prowess and the extra time to get ready, can’t seem to handle. The hardest hit countries on the continent, Britain, Italy, France and Spain, have recorded a total of around 140,000 deaths.
In addition to alcohol-fueled clubs and street parties, large family gatherings – usually abundant with hugs and kisses – have been cited as the source of new outbreaks in several European countries.
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In France, thousands of vacationing Britons rushed home on Friday to avoid having to self-quarantine for 14 days following Britain’s decision to reimpose restrictions on France due to a upsurge in infections there. Ferries added additional trips to England and trains were running out of space.
Some of the toughest new measures have been announced in Spain, which has recorded nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
Health Minister Salvador Illa after an emergency meeting with regional leaders said nightclubs across the country had been ordered to close. Nursing home visits will be limited to one person per day for each resident for one hour only.
“We cannot be unruly,” Illa said.
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In Italy, also facing an upsurge in cases, seaside towns have announced new restrictions, including a ban on fireworks on beaches. These changes came just before Italy’s biggest summer vacation, Ferragosto, which millions of Italians celebrate by the sea, in the mountains, or on trips abroad.
The mayor of Anzio has banned all night access to the beach, while San Felice Circeo, a popular weekend for Romans, has ordered masks worn outside. On the upscale island of Capri, an order requiring masks outside from evening until dawn has been extended by the mayor to all day.
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Masks are also mandatory on the streets of Amalfi, a picturesque coastal tourist town.
While some of Italy’s more than 200 infection clusters were attributed to patrons of crowded beachfront dance clubs, the governor of Calabria, the region that forms Italy’s toe, ordered the closure of these nightclubs.
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Italy’s health ministry said 574 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Friday – the highest daily number since May 28.
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The epidemics and new restrictions in Europe should come as no surprise, said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
“Even the smallest rift in the armor can lead to an epidemic if you’re not careful,” Michaud said. “In no country have we addressed collective immunity and we do not have a vaccine.”
In Greece, authorities have strongly recommended that people wear masks for a week indoors and outdoors in public spaces after returning from national holiday destinations with a high incidence of COVID-19.
Gatherings of more than nine people have been banned on two popular Greek resort islands, Paros and Antiparos, and the ban on restaurants, bars and nightclubs operating after midnight has been extended to more parts of the country, including Athens. The steps came as Greece recorded its second-highest daily number of infections – 254 new cases.
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In France, amid growing fears of a second contagion peak, the head of the country’s national health service said Paris and Marseille had been declared risk areas. “The situation is deteriorating from week to week”, declared the person in charge, Jérôme Salomon, on France Inter radio.
The UK government has said it is being forced to impose the quarantine requirement on people returning from France in light of a 66% increase in infections in France last week. The requirement applied to anyone returning after 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Philip Alston, who looked after three cats for a French couple in Paris, reluctantly decided to return to Britain.
“Fortunately, they said in this case they had back-up aid,” he said before boarding a Eurostar train to London. “So I’m really pissed off because I was having a great time taking care of the cats and exploring Paris.”
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The quarantine decision is a blow to the French tourism industry, which relies heavily on British travelers.
There have also been worrying developments in other parts of the world:
– India’s death toll surpassed Britain’s to become the fourth highest in the world, with another record single-day increase in cases on Friday. The death toll hit more than 48,000, behind the United States with more than 167,000; Brazil, with more than 105,000; and Mexico, with more than 55,000 people.
– The New Zealand government has extended the lockdown of its largest city, Auckland by 12 days, as it tries to eradicate its first national outbreak in more than three months, involving 30 people. Until the cluster was discovered on Tuesday, New Zealand had gone 102 days without any reports of infection spreading in the community. The only known cases concerned travelers from abroad.
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– A man in his 20s has become the youngest to die from coronavirus in Australia. It was among 14 new deaths and 372 new infections reported by health officials in Victoria state during an outbreak centered in Melbourne.
– In Toronto, health officials said up to 550 people may have been exposed to COVID-19 at a strip club last week and urged them to self-quarantine for 14 days.
D’Emilio reported from Rome and Crary from New York. AP Medical Editor Carla K. Johnson Contributed from Washington State.
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