PARIS: France headed for a second lockdown on Friday as the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic reached new heights in the United States with a daily record of more than 90,000 cases, just five days before the presidential election.
From midnight, France’s 65 million people were largely confined to their homes, needing written statements to leave, in the latest drastic step to stem a disease that has infected more than 44.5 million in the world and killed nearly 1.2 million.
With the lockdowns returning, oil prices fell amid fears of slowing demand, but tech giants Facebook, Amazon and Google-parent Alphabet reported strong quarterly results, reflecting the economic changes brought about. by the global epidemic.
And in the latest grim warning, the United Nations biodiversity panel said future pandemics will be more frequent, deadly and economically damaging, without a fundamental change in the way humans treat nature.
The United States, where President Donald Trump will seek re-election on November 3, announced 91,295 new cases in 24 hours, breaking the 90,000 mark for the first time.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic in America, the worst-hit county in the world with 8.94 million cases, has been a key theme of the election campaign, where he follows Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national polls.
– ‘I refuel’ –
Millions of people ran to buy supplies before France’s new lockdown, with essentials like pasta and toilet paper in high demand, along with printer ink and yoga mats.
“I’m stocking up because we don’t know when it will end,” said Catherine Debeaupuis, shopping at an electronics retailer in central Paris.
The lockdown is scheduled to last for a month, with bars and restaurants also being closed until at least December and travel between regions is restricted.
Factories and construction sites will remain open, as will nurseries and schools – although children aged six and older are required to wear masks in class.
President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the second wave “will likely be more difficult and deadly than the first,” although he insisted the lockdown would be less severe than the measures imposed in the spring.
The lockdown in France, where 36,000 people have died, is part of a series of renewed anti-virus restrictions across Europe, which is back at the “epicenter” of the pandemic according to the World Organization. health.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered a lighter series of closures from Monday, closing bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as theaters, opera houses and cinemas.
Spain’s parliament on Thursday approved a six-month extension of the country’s state of emergency, which was declared on Sunday for an initial two weeks.
Sweden, known for its light approach, recorded its highest number of infections for the second day in a row, prompting residents of the capital and the country’s more densely populated south to avoid social interactions.
– ‘Existential threat’ –
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he has no plans to introduce a radical lockdown, even as the country has record-breaking balance sheets with reports of ambulance queues at hospitals and medical shortages.
But the Vatican said Pope Francis would resume a remote and live-broadcast version of his weekly general audiences with the public, “to avoid any possible future risk to the health of participants.”
EU leaders held a video summit on the crisis, according to European sources, the first in a series of such calls to improve coordination.
The European Central Bank, for its part, pledged to strengthen its pandemic recovery in December.
The economic recovery “is losing momentum faster than expected” after the partial rebound observed this summer, said ECB President Christine Lagarde after a virtual meeting of 25 members of the Governing Council.
Amidst the host of bad news, the UN panel on biodiversity warned that future pandemics could be even worse, adding that they pose an “existential threat” to humanity.
The authors of a special report on biodiversity and pandemics said habitat destruction and insatiable consumption make animal diseases much more likely to make the leap to humans in the future.
“The same human activities that are driving climate change and loss of biodiversity also bring the risk of pandemics through their impacts on our agriculture,” said Peter Daszak, President of the Ecohealth Alliance and chair of the workshop that wrote the report.