New virus restrictions in Europe; Merkel warns of tough days

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BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to come together as they did in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the country released another daily record for new cases on Saturday. “Tough months lie ahead,” she said in her weekly video podcast. “How will winter be, how will our Christmas be, everything will be decided in the days and weeks to come, and it will be decided by our behavior. ”

Meanwhile, new restrictions have gone into effect in several other European countries in an attempt to stop the resurgence of the pandemic.

In Paris and eight other French cities, restaurants, bars, cinemas and other establishments were forced to close no later than 9 p.m. in an attempt to reduce contact between people. The country is deploying 12,000 additional police officers to enforce the new rules.

Many restaurateurs have bristled to order. A lockout lasting several months devastated the sector.

“I have the right to question the government’s approach, I think it is a catastrophic measure for the industry,” said Xavier Denamur, owner of Les Philosophes and several other bistros in the chic Marais district in Paris, claiming that if nothing else, the curfew should be 11 p.m.

“At least it wouldn’t destroy us,” he said. “There is no evidence that this difference of a few hours will have any effect on the circulating virus. ”

In Britain, a three-tier regional approach to tackling the pandemic introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come into force, with each tier bringing progressively tighter restrictions.

On Saturday, Tier 2 towns like London and York were placed under a ban on socializing with people from other households indoors, while Lancashire County joined Liverpool at Tier 3 with the most restrictions. strict.

Among other things, this means that pubs have been forced to close and socializing with others is prohibited, even in many outdoor environments.

In Northern Ireland, a four-week lockdown went into effect on Friday. All pubs and restaurants are to close except for take-out services, and schools will close for two weeks for extended mid-term vacations.

Data on Friday showed a further 136 people in the UK died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total official toll to 43,429.

The World Health Organization has warned that intensive care units in a number of European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks if the number of infections does not slow.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has joined the list of top politicians who have tested positive for the virus and has been quarantined despite showing no symptoms, his office told the news agency Austrian APA.

The Vatican, meanwhile, said a person living in the same hotel as Pope Francis had tested positive for the virus, adding to the 11 cases of COVID-19 among the Swiss guards protecting him.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the country’s head of state, has been quarantined after a bodyguard was infected, his office said. A first test was negative.

Germany, which was widely praised for rapidly slowing the spread of the virus when the pandemic first broke, has seen its numbers rise rapidly in recent days.

The country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, on Saturday reported 7,830 cases overnight, a new record.

Like most countries, Germany is wondering how to keep schools and businesses open while trying to keep people out of close contact with each other.

Germany has recorded a total of 356,387 coronavirus cases and a relatively low number of 9,767 deaths.

Merkel urged Germans to avoid unnecessary travel, cancel holidays and stay at home as much as possible.

“What got us through the first half of the pandemic so well? ” she asked. “It’s because we stood together and obeyed the rules out of consideration and common sense. It is the most effective remedy we have for the pandemic today and it is more needed than ever. ”

In neighboring Czech Republic, the number of new infections exceeded 10,000 for the first time, rising to 11,105 on Friday, the health ministry said. The country has now recorded a total of 160,112 cases, including 1,283 deaths.

Despite further restrictive measures to slow the outbreak, Health Minister Roman Prymula said he still expected an increase in the number of people who tested positive for about two weeks.

Beside, Slovakia said it would buy 13 million rapid antigen tests – enough to test every member of the population twice – and establish 6,000 testing sites.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic said tests would take place over the next two weekends, starting with the three or four hardest-hit countries. It was not immediately clear whether the tests would be mandatory.

The Italian region of northern Lombardy, where the European epidemic began in late February, has taken new measures to contain the rebound in infections, limit bar service and alcohol sales, ban contact sports and shut down bingo halls.

On Friday evening, the regional government called on high schools to adopt hybrid schedules, with students alternating in-person with online learning.

The measures were taken after Lombardy, Italy’s most populous region, became the worst affected again, adding more than 2,000 infections a day. Hospitals are strained and intensive care units are filling up.

The new measures only allow table service for bars from 6 p.m., ban the sale of take-out alcohol from that time and ban all alcohol consumption in public areas.

The other hardest-hit region in Italy, southern Campania, has taken similarly tough measures, including closing schools for two weeks. After parents protested, the regional governor backed down on Friday and allowed daycares to remain open.

In the capital, Rome, residents growled as cases increased, fearing a return to the strict country-wide measures that were imposed when the virus spread uncontrollably.

“The situation is critical thanks to the morons, because I call them morons, who did not follow the rules,” said resident Mario Massenzi. “And if we fall back into the same situation as in March, we’re done. ”

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Thomas Adamson in Paris, Sylvia Hui in London, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Colleen Barry in Milan and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.

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