Several European countries like the United Kingdom, Spain and France, which had successfully capped the first surge in Covid-19 cases, are now in the middle of a second coronavirus wave, with governments re-imposing restrictions in cities that were well into reopening economic activities and educational institutions.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), daily case numbers in the European Union and United Kingdom reached record highs of more than 71,000 infections between September 29 and October 4. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested the increase could be partly due to loosening of lockdown restrictions late this summer in Europe and people dropping their guard, with evidence indicating young people were driving the second surge in the continent.
The fact that people between the 18-49 age group is leading the rise in caseload has led to European nations shortening opening hours of pubs, bars and restaurants, re-introducing localised lockdowns and imposing new restrictions on social gatherings. Besides the EU, Israel, which is also witnessing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, has announced a three-week-long lockdown, while New York City is planning to close schools and reinstate restrictions on non-essential businesses.
The United Kingdom
From an average of a little over 1,000 cases in mid-August, the United Kingdom has seen some of its highest numbers in daily infections over the last week, with a record 22,965 cases detected on October 4, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The UK also has the highest number of deaths in Europe at more than 42,000, forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to halt efforts to re-open the economy and bring back restrictions.
According to the new restrictions, pubs, bars and restaurants will close by 10 pm and people have been asked to work from home where possible. No more than 15 guests are allowed to attend weddings and face coverings have been made mandatory in taxis and private hire vehicles, and by retail staff while at work.
Besides, it has been made legally binding for people to quarantine if tested Covid-19 positive or if one has come in contact with a patient failing which one can be fined up to £10,000. Moreover, those in self-isolation won’t be able to leave their house even to buy essentials for 10 days.
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New restrictions have also been announced in Madrid, which accounts for approximately a third of all new cases in Spain. Spain, which remains the worst-hit European nation with nearly 790,000 cases, has seen its daily count of infections hovering around the 10,000 mark in recent weeks, even touching a record high of 31,785 on September 28, shows JHU data.
The Spanish government has imposed a two-week ban, with measures prohibiting all non-essential trips in and out of the capital and nine of its suburbs. Restaurants have been ordered to close at 11 pm and shops at 10 pm, and reduce occupancy to 50 per cent of their capacity. Gatherings have been limited to six people, with parks and playgrounds shut. However, the measures are not as strict as compared with the home confinement mandated across Spain during the first wave of the virus.
Paris and its surrounding suburbs have been put on maximum alert after the Covid-19 incidence rate exceeded 250 infections per 100,000 people in the French capital. France, which has been reporting a surge in cases from mid-August, with daily infections touching an all-time high of 29,300 on September 21, has also put its second-largest city Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and its surrounding areas under the maximum alert protocol in the last two weeks.
Paris et sa petite couronne passent ce soir en zone d’alerte maximale. Dans ces zones, j’invite les employeurs et les salariés à recourir autant que possible au télétravail pour ralentir la circulation du virus. #COVID19 https://t.co/0lNSbixrI8
— Elisabeth BORNE (@Elisabeth_Borne) October 4, 2020
The Prime Minister’s Office said bars will be closed for two weeks from Tuesday and restaurants will have to put in place new sanitary protocols to stay open in Paris. Working from home should be prioritised “now more than ever” in the Paris area and university lecture halls should be no more than half full, the PMO order said. There is also a 10-person restriction at public gatherings, with attendees at weddings and parties limited to 30.
New York City, the United States
At a time when the US hit its highest daily rate of new cases in nearly two months last week, New York City is emerging as a particular area of concern, predominantly in Brooklyn and Queens. Nearly 1,100 people have tested positive in Brooklyn in just the last four days, taking the caseload in New York to 469,000. This comes even as NYC appeared to have checked the spread of Covid-19, averaging fewer than 240 new cases per day a month back.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed temporarily closing all schools, daycares and restaurants and all non-essential businesses in nine ZIP codes with high test positivity rates, AP reported. New York, which last month became the first major school district in the country to welcome back students, will shut 100 public schools and 200 private schools again. Indoor dining, which just resumed a few days ago, outdoor restaurant dining and gyms will also be shut down.
After hurriedly reopening the economy and lifting nearly all restrictions way back in May, Israel has been forced to impose a stringent second lockdown, as a new record of more than 8,000 infections for a single day was reported in last week of September. The imposition of the lockdown comes during a season of major Jewish holidays even as Israel continues to have one of the highest rates of infections per capita in the world. The nation of 9 million people has more than 268,000 confirmed cases and over 1,700 deaths.
Gatherings have been limited to 20 people in open spaces and people are allowed to shop for essential items or services within about a mile from their homes. Moreover, with demonstrations raging against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the government passed a rule allowing people to protest only within a kilometer of their home.
Almost all businesses have been told to close for two weeks and restaurants are only being permitted to serve home-deliveries. Officials also closed Ben Gurion Airport for two weeks, The Jerusalem Post reported.