Europe topped 10 million coronavirus infections, the United States topped nine million and France entered a new lockdown on Friday as the resurgence of the pandemic increasingly forced other countries to consider doing the same.
Belgium has become the latest European country to tighten restrictions as the number of the virus skyrockets across the continent, which has seen 41% more cases this week than the previous seven days, according to an AFP tally .
Europe now records 241,000 new cases per day – up from 15,000 at the start of July – and accounted for about half of global infections last week.
Some 14 European countries have recorded a record number of hospitalizations linked to the virus this week.
The virus is also increasing in the United States, which recorded a daily record 91,295 new cases on Thursday, breaking the 90,000 mark for the first time within days of the country’s presidential election.
Its total number of cases has risen to nine million, while 229,000 people have died from the disease in the United States.
President Donald Trump continued to downplay the dangers of the virus, telling an enthusiastic crowd at a rally in Tampa that lockdowns under Democratic rival Joe Biden would ban normal life.
“We’re never going to lock down again,” Trump said ahead of the Nov. 3 vote, telling supporters his recent fight with COVID-19 – for which he was hospitalized – proved he can be beaten.
Also in Tampa, Biden responded by saying, “I’m not going to shut down the economy, I’m not going to shut down the country. I will stop the virus. ”
Italy released its own daily infection toll on Friday, fueling debate over whether it should follow France in a nationwide lockdown.
“More than 31,000 cases and 199 deaths. I ask you a question: what are you waiting for? Virologist Roberto Burioni tweeted.
Meanwhile, a new US government study has found that people infected with COVID-19 infect about half of their household members, with adults being slightly more likely than children to spread the virus.
‘I do not have a choice’
Belgium, which has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, said it would impose stricter lockdown rules from Monday, shutting down non-essential businesses and limiting home visits.
The 65 million French people woke up on Friday with a new lockdown, largely confined to their homes and needing written statements to leave.
But some medics have expressed fears that regular traffic and the sizeable number of people on public transport in Paris show the public is not taking the lockdown so seriously a second time.
“Crossing Paris this morning looked more like an ordinary day than the first day of a lockout,” tweeted Paris hospital director Martin Hirsch.
“We have no choice, we are forced to live, to go shopping and to behave as if it were normal even if there are security measures”, explains Fabrice Angélique, 18, buying headphones in a book and electronics store in Paris. .
A total of 49,215 new cases were recorded in 24 hours in France, according to official figures on Friday.
Nottingham became the latest in a swathe of towns in central and northern England to enter the highest level of local restrictions on Friday, with Leeds’ 2.4 million residents expected to follow suit next week.
Lawmakers in the Czech Republic have voted to extend the state of emergency until November 20, while Iceland has ordered bars and nightclubs closed and limited public gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
But there has been resistance to measures to stop the virus, with clashes between protesters and police erupting in the Spanish city of Barcelona on Friday over mobility restrictions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he has no plans to introduce a radical lockdown, even as the country has a record-breaking death toll with reports of ambulance lines at hospitals and medical shortages .
There were, however, small glimmers of hope – sometimes controversial – in some countries.
In Slovakia, a government program to screen its entire population of 5.4 million people for the coronavirus with antigen testing in what would be a world first, was due to start on Saturday.
And in Italy, pharmacists are facing a surge in demand for a niche product – of heretofore unproven effectiveness against COVID – typically marketed as an immune system booster for babies.
The demand for lactoferrin comes weeks after a viral video suggested it may help protect against the coronavirus.
There has also been good news for football star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has tested negative for COVID-19 and will leave family isolation in Italy after testing positive on October 13.
However, Russian Alexander Vedernikov, conductor-in-chief of the Royal Danish Orchestra and former music director of the famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, has died of coronavirus, his employers announced on Friday.
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© 2020 AFP
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