Coronavirus cases around the world have reached unprecedented highs of more than 330,000 a day as the scourge reappears in Europe and spreads at renewed speed in the United States, forcing many countries to re-impose severe restrictions eased ago just a few months away.
Long after Europe appears to have largely tamed the virus that proved so deadly last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. Most of the rest of the continent is seeing similar danger signs.
France has announced a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other major cities. Londoners face new restrictions on meeting people indoors. The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants this week. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland have closed schools. Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and swimming pools.
In the United States, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, with many of the largest increases in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to masks and other precautions is high and the virus has often been seen like just a big city problem. Daily deaths are increasing in 30 states.
“I consider this to be one of the most difficult times in the epidemic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “The numbers are growing quite quickly. We’re going to see a pretty big epidemic in the northern hemisphere. “
Dr Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease specialist, said Americans should seriously consider whether or not to hold Thanksgiving gatherings.
“Everyone has this traditional, emotional and warm feeling about a vacation and getting a group of people, friends and family together in the house inside,” he said of “ Good Morning America ”on ABC. “We really have to be careful this time that each individual family weighs the risk-benefit of doing this.”
Responses to the outbreak varied in the hard-hit states.
In North Dakota, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum raised the risk level for coronavirus in 16 counties this week, but issued no mandatory restrictions. In Wisconsin, a judge temporarily blocked an order from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers that would limit the number of people in bars and restaurants.
South Dakota broke its record for COVID-19-related hospitalizations and new cases on Wednesday, and recorded more deaths from the disease in less than mid-October than in any other full month. Despite the grim numbers, GOP Governor Kristi Noem has resisted pressure to step up the state’s response to the disease.
Wisconsin hit a new daily record for confirmed infections for the second time this week. In Missouri, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 has reached nearly 1,450, another record.
Dr Marc Larsen, who oversees the COVID-19 response at the Kansas City-based St. Luke’s Health System, said rural hospitals in the system were experiencing outbreaks just as severe as in Kansas City.
“At the start of this pandemic, it was felt to be a problem in the big cities, and now it is spreading to rural communities where I think there was not so much emphasis on masking and distancing”, did he declare.
New cases in the United States have increased over the past two weeks from an average of around 40,000 per day to more than 52,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. (Cases peaked in the United States over the summer at nearly 70,000 per day.) Deaths were relatively stable over the past two weeks, at around 720 per day. That’s well below the US peak of over 2,200 deaths per day at the end of April.
Globally, deaths have declined slightly in recent weeks to around 5,200 per day, from a peak of around 7,000 in April.
Dr Hans Kluge, head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office, urged governments to be “tough” in controlling the virus. He said most of the spread is happening because people do not follow safety rules.
European financial markets fell sharply on Thursday, fearing the new restrictions could jeopardize the continent’s economic recovery. Stocks fell slightly on Wall Street.
In France, which on Wednesday reported more than 22,000 new infections, President Emmanuel Macron subjected 18 million inhabitants in nine regions, including Paris, to a curfew from Saturday. The country will deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce it.
Italy set a one-day record for infections and recorded the highest daily death toll in this second wave, adding 83 casualties to bring its toll to nearly 36,400, the second highest in Europe after Great Britain.
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In Britain, London and seven other regions face restrictions that will prevent more than 11 million people from meeting anyone inside their homes and will be urged to minimize travel from this weekend.
European countries have seen nearly 230,000 confirmed deaths from the virus, while the United States has recorded more than 217,000, although experts agree the official figures underestimate the true toll.
So far in the new outbreaks, deaths have not kept pace with infections.
On the one hand, it can take a long time for people to get sick and die from the virus. In addition, many of the new cases involve young people, who are less likely than older people to become seriously ill. Patients benefit from new drugs and other improvements in the treatment of COVID-19. And nursing homes, which were ravaged by the virus last spring, have improved in infection control.
But experts fear it will be only a matter of time before deaths start to rise alongside infections.
“All of this does not bode well,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington. “The rapid increases in cases as we are seeing now are always followed by an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, which is likely to occur across much of Europe and the United States within weeks and months. to come up.
Among the areas affected by the new wave is Gove County in Kansas, where the sheriff, the director of emergency management, the CEO of the local hospital and more than 50 medical staff have tested positive. .
Dr Doug Gruenbacher, a doctor who contracted the virus in September, said residents of Gove County were concerned about their personal freedom and “didn’t want to be told what to do.”
“That’s part of the reason we love it here, because of that spirit and because of that independence,” he said. “But unfortunately this is something that also contributes to some of the difficulties that we are currently facing. “
Associated Press editors in Europe and the United States contributed to this report.
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