European economies were decimated by the second quarter crisis and governments are desperate to foster a rapid recovery without triggering another wave of the disease. The surge in cases in recent weeks has been blamed on social gatherings and travelers, but authorities are reluctant to resort to the strict restrictions imposed during the initial peak of the pandemic in March and April.
“We cannot shut down the country because the collateral damage from detention is considerable,” Macron, who is hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks later Thursday, said in an interview with Paris Match magazine.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, meanwhile, is on vacation with his family and has not come to address the public even as bad news accumulates.
Governments across Europe are tightening restrictions to fight the spread. In France, masks must now be worn in busy outdoor spaces in Paris and Marseille. Toulouse will require the wearing of a general mask from August 21, reported Agence France-Presse, the first major French city to do so.
The country’s response must be “to speed up vaccines, ensure their access and provide the best health response given what we know,” Macron told Paris Match, adding that, if necessary, authorities should resort to “targeted” local lockdowns. Testing, locating, isolating infected people and expanding the wearing of masks if necessary are also essential, he said.
With Spain’s tourism industry in shock and the economy on its knees, some voters are at their wit’s end and any perceived political indifference could hurt the weak minority government that relies on separatists to stay in power.
Sanchez’s handling of the pandemic has been widely criticized while Italy, which has served as a model for Spain by being the first to move towards lockdown, appears to have better handling of the crisis. Both countries are in deep recession and have had to try to strike a balance between the need to keep people safe and the desire to try and take advantage of a lucrative summer season.
Italy has also seen a resumption of new cases, although more contained than elsewhere. The country reported 642 new infections on Wednesday, the largest increase since May 23.
The government has closed nightclubs, banned dancing in public places and made face masks mandatory from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in all places, including streets and squares, where crowds can congregate.
Recent outbreaks have been attributed to parties at seaside resorts such as Porto Rotondo in Sardinia, as well as to people returning from holidays abroad.
The government could even act to isolate Sardinia, one of the country’s busiest summer vacation areas, after an increase in coronavirus cases linked to the island, Corriere della Sera reported on Thursday, citing officials from the anonymous ministry.
In Sweden, the government’s decision to adopt a light strategy to tackle the pandemic has pushed its death toll per capita several times higher than in the rest of the Nordic region.
However, the situation improved considerably in July. The rate of infections in the country is now converging with that of neighboring Denmark and Norway, where governments are telling citizens to use masks for the first time.
© 2020 Bloomberg LP