Cases of the disease that has changed lives around the world and is wreaking social and economic havoc surpassed levels seen in the first wave earlier this year, when many countries sought to stem the tide with lockdowns at varying degrees.
On Friday, the number of cases in the United States – the hardest-hit country in the world – topped 8 million, as daily infections around the world hit a new high.
In the face of this outbreak, governments have been forced to embark on increasingly stringent measures to control the spread of the pandemic while trying to avoid full lockdowns.
COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people across the globe since it emerged in China in December, with the United States having suffered the most deaths of any country with more than 218,000.
About 20 million people in Paris and several other French cities were facing the start of a 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew after the country on Thursday saw a new record of 30,000 cases in 24 hours in the one of the main hot spots in Europe.
The move – which will last for at least a month – enjoys wide public support, but officials worry about the high social and economic costs.
“It’s terrible. I feel like I’m back in March, ”said Hocine Saal, head of the emergency department at the hospital in the Paris suburbs of Montreuil, adding that the increase in the number of non-coronavirus patients made the “really difficult” survival.
In Britain, where Europe’s highest death toll is over 43,000, restrictions are tightened with a ban on indoor meetings between members of different households in London and several other English cities.
These areas are part of the second three-tier alert system introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, while some areas – notably in the north-west – have been placed at the highest level.
Around 28 million people – half of England’s population – are now subject to strict social restrictions.
But some cities have seen protests of anger over what some people see as a return to virtual lockdown.
Johnson acknowledged that local curtailment policies designed to spare struggling economies from another large-scale foreclosure cannot be “painless.”
As Britain fought for a cohesive strategy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to stay at home whenever possible after 7,830 cases emerged in 24 hours.
“Say no to travel that isn’t really necessary, to celebration that isn’t really necessary. Please stay home as much as possible, ”Merkel said in her weekly podcast speech.
“What will determine winter and our Christmas will be decided in the weeks to come” by the way people react now, she said.
A Berlin court on Friday overturned an order for the early closure of restaurants and bars, the latest in a series of court rulings overturning measures taken by German national and local governments to combat the transmission of the coronavirus.
In Italy, the wealthy northern region of Lombardy has ordered all bars to close at midnight as the area where the first cases of the virus in Europe emerged in February battles a second wave.
Elsewhere in Europe, Poland, the Czech Republic and Belgium all announced a record daily caseload after the World Health Organization (WHO) called a 44% increase in European cases in one week as “very worrying ”.
Belgian authorities said on Saturday they had reached 200,000 cases within a month of surpassing 100,000 cases.
Beyond Europe, South Africa, which accounts for around 43% of infections diagnosed on the continent, passed 700,000 positive cases on Friday with 61 deaths bringing the death toll to more than 18,000.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has become the latest politician to test positive for COVID-19, after executives such as US President Donald Trump, Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro and Britain’s Johnson.