France extends curfew as second wave of COVID rises in Europe

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FILE PHOTO: French citizens wait for a tram to return to France after shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kehl, Germany October 16, 2020, REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach reuters_tickers

This content was published on October 22, 2020 – 20:25

By Geert De Clercq and Inti Landauro

PARIS / MADRID (Reuters) – France extended the curfew to around two-thirds of its population on Thursday and the Belgian foreign minister has been placed in intensive care with COVID-19, as the second wave of the pandemic continues exploded across Europe.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a curfew imposed last week on Paris and eight other cities that would be extended to 38 additional departments, confining 46 million of the country’s 67 million inhabitants to their homes from 9 p.m. to 6 am.

“A second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is currently underway in France and Europe. The situation is very serious, ”Castex said at a press conference.

Shortly after the measures were announced, French health authorities reported a record 41,622 new confirmed cases, bringing the cumulative total to 999,043.

According to a Reuters tally, Wednesday saw the highest total of infections reported in a single day worldwide, at 422,835.

In Spain, which this week became the first European country to pass 1 million cases, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the epidemic was now “out of control” in many areas. Regional authorities have debated a curfew but have not taken a decision.

After Europe appears to have gained some control over the epidemic following the dramatic lockdowns in March and April, an upsurge in cases in recent weeks has put the continent back at the heart of the crisis.

While hospitalizations and deaths have so far not overwhelmed health systems like they did in the first wave earlier this year, authorities in many countries fear the situation could quickly reach a halt. tipping point.

Germany, which reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time, has extended travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most parts of Austria and Italy, including Rome .

“We still have a chance to slow the spread of the virus,” Lothar Wieler, from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s infectious disease agency, told Berlin.

More than 5.3 million people across Europe have contracted the disease and more than 204,000 have died, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. This compares to 8.3 million cases in the United States and 7.7 million in India.

Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes entered intensive care on Thursday, just a day after German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive.

The resurgence in recent weeks contrasts with several countries in Asia, from China to South Korea to New Zealand, where drastic lockdowns and rigorous contact tracing have helped contain the disease.

According to a Reuters tally, October 21 saw the highest total of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day at 422,835.

“WE ARE SWAMPED”

Grappling with the huge costs of the coronavirus, European leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the general lockdowns that shut down their economies in the spring.

As cases multiply and health services come under increasing pressure, they have been forced to impose and expand local restrictions aimed at reducing public gatherings to ever larger areas.

The three most populous regions of Italy – Lombardy around Milan, Lazio around Rome and Campania around Naples – have already imposed nighttime curfews. Britain also tightened restrictions in three other areas on Thursday.

Amid growing public alarm, Germany’s statistics office noted that sales of toilet paper rose nearly 90% last week from pre-crisis levels with almost equally sharp increases in sales. disinfectants and soap.

Only Sweden, a European outlier that has relied heavily on voluntary measures to promote social distancing, was an exception, saying seniors no longer need to self-isolate given COVID infection rates more weak than in spring.

As the crisis escalated, much of the public goodwill seen in the first phase of the lockdowns evaporated and central governments engaged in disputes with local authorities from Manchester to Madrid over issues ranging from health and well-being to transport and schools.

With the onset of winter, health services look to the future with trepidation as the wave of COVID patients coincides with usual seasonal respiratory illnesses.

“We are already overwhelmed,” said Bruno Megarbane, head of intensive care at Lariboisière hospital in Paris. “So indeed there is the fear that we are facing a very difficult situation. ”

(Reuters reports; written by James Mackenzie)

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