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Europe, United States facing new round of closures amid virus outbreak

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BERLIN (AP) – Germany on Wednesday decided to shut down restaurants, bars and theaters again and France weighed in demands for another nationwide lockdown as a new wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and in the United States erases months of progress against the scourge on two continents.

The resurgence and growing repression caused a chill in financial markets and stocks fell.

“We must act, and now, to avert an acute national health emergency,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in announcing a four-week partial lockdown from Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has scheduled a speech Wednesday evening as many French doctors have called for a nationwide lockdown, with 58% of the country’s intensive care units now occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Countries like Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece have closed or cracked down on bars and restaurants again and imposed other restrictions such as curfews and mandatory wearing of masks. Italy and Germany set records for new infections on Wednesday, with Italy reporting nearly 25,000 in a single day and Germany registering nearly 15,000.

“We are in the second wave,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “I think Christmas this year will be a different Christmas.”

In the United States, where virtually every state is seeing an increase in the number of cases, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has banned indoor meals and drinks in Chicago and limited the number of people gathering in one only place.

“We cannot ignore what is happening around us, because without action it could look worse than anything we have seen in the spring,” he said.

The dreaded surge is in part due to the growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing, as well as the onset of cold weather, forcing people to return home, where the virus can spread further. easily.

After a terribly murderous spring, Europe appeared to have pushed back the virus over the summer. Its success was seen as a rebuke to the United States and an example of what the United States could accomplish if Americans simply stopped their political infighting and listened to scientists.

The S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq were all down in the afternoon on Wall Street, fearing that further lockdowns and activity declines could further slow economies.

The virus is responsible for more than 250,000 deaths in Europe and around 227,000 in the United States, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 2 million new confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported worldwide last week, the World Health Organization said. This is the shortest time ever for such an increase. Forty-six percent of the new cases were reported in Europe.

Von der Leyen said that Europe faces “two enemies”.

“We are dealing with the coronavirus – the virus itself – and also corona fatigue,” she said. “In other words, people are getting more and more fed up with preventative measures.”

In the United States, more than 71,000 people a day test positive on average, up from 51,000 two weeks ago. Cases are on the rise in all but two states, Hawaii and Delaware, and deaths are increasing in 39 states, with an average of 805 people dying in the United States per day, up from 714 two weeks ago.

Deaths are also on the rise in Europe, peaking at around 35% from the previous week, the WHO said. France reported 523 virus-related deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday, the highest daily number since April.

Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic have similarly high infection rates.

In Italy, where the regions of Lombardy and Campania are the hardest hit, officials have accused right-wing extremists, football hooligans and anarchists of using widespread discontent over new antivirus restrictions on restaurants, gyms , swimming pools and theaters as a pretext for the violence of the guerrillas during the recent demonstrations.

Talks over new lockdowns have also sparked unrest in Germany, where thousands of people staged a protest at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to demand more financial support from the government.

Economists said the additional restrictions had to be carefully calibrated to avoid dealing a second blow to businesses.

“A nationwide foreclosure, as we’ve seen, ravages an economy and would add significant complications to the ongoing economic recovery,” said Fiona Cincotta, analyst at online trading firm GAIN Capital.

But Thomas Gitzel, chief economist at VP Bank Group of Liechtenstein, said a short and strict lockdown could be effective and less harmful than a prolonged decline in consumer spending due to consistently high infection levels.

“The strict containment measures in March and April laid the foundation for an economically successful summer,” he said.

Even Sweden, which has avoided a national lockdown and generally imposed much lighter measures than other European countries, is now urging people to avoid shops and public transport.

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Associated Press editors around the world contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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