LONDON – Germany followed several European countries by reporting a record daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday, as a second wave of infections sweeps across the continent as winter approaches.
The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel flattened the curve this spring and was praised for its response to Covid-19, which has seen the country introduce widespread contact tracing.
But the national center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 23,399 new cases between Friday and Saturday, a daily record for the country.
This brought the total number of recorded cases in Germany to over 600,000. A total of 11,226 deaths have been reported in the country.
The increase came despite the closure of bars, gyms and theaters since Monday, under measures agreed between Merkel and heads of regional governments. However, schools will remain open and stores will be allowed to operate with limits.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is still quite far away,” Merkel said at a press conference after the measures were introduced. She added that if the Germans reduced their contacts in November, they might be able to do more by Christmas.
Despite the increase in numbers, Germany has always been able to welcome patients from its neighbors, the Netherlands and Belgium, where hospitals are reaching their limits.
Greece also began a three-week nationwide lockdown on Saturday, its second this year.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had been forced to act after a spike in cases, warning that without a lockdown, the pressure on the health system would be “unbearable”.
The country has seen a 20% increase in confirmed infections in the last week alone, health officials said. It has now reported 52,254 cases and 715 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.
Under new restrictions, high schools will close along with most stores except supermarkets and pharmacies. Greeks will also need a permit to venture outside at set times.
France also hit a record 60,486 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
That brought the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 1.6 million, 100,000 less than Russia, which currently has the fourth highest number in the world after the United States, India and Brazil.
France has also reported 828 new coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, with intensive care beds 90% full, a week after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown.
Many non-essential shops, cafes and hotels are closed in France, but schools remain open.
“We are all in the same position: invaded by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first,” President Emmanuel Macron told the nation last week.
Download the NBC News app for the latest news and politics
An outbreak of a mutated coronavirus strain that has spread from mink in Denmark to a handful of people, has prompted the UK to demand that all travelers arriving from the Nordic country self-isolate upon arrival, a the British government said on Friday.
After resisting the prospect of a new national lockdown for most of the last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the lockdown England return on Thursday.
Britain, which has the highest death toll in Europe and has passed the million-case milestone, faces a second wave of infections that threatens to overwhelm its national health service.
New coronavirus restrictions also went into effect in Italy on Friday.
One of the worst-hit nations which has recorded 862,681 cases and 40,638 deaths, according to an NBC News tally, the restrictions divide the country into three zones based on the severity of the latest outbreak. They are less stringent than the general measures imposed when the pandemic hit the country in March.
Like other countries in Europe, Italy has seen an alarming resurgence of cases, but many say they are facing lockdown fatigue, with anti-restriction protests erupting in a handful of cities.
Meanwhile in the United States, a record 120,048 cases were reported Thursday, breaking a record set Wednesday of more than 100,000 cases in a single day. The United States had recorded 9,827,184 confirmed cases and 237,941 deaths as of Friday, according to an NBC News Tally.
President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, a source familiar with the diagnosis told NBC News.
Reuters contributed to this report