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Monday, October 26, 2020

London and Paris face clampdowns with Europe hitting virus peaks

Boris Johnson’s government will mandate tighter restrictions in the UK capital starting this weekend, while French President Emmanuel Macron will confine residents of nine of the country’s biggest cities to their homes between 9 pm and 6 am for four weeks from Saturday.

By: Bloomberg | Updated: October 15, 2020 3:39:16 pm
europe coronavirus, boris johnson, angela merkel, germany, london clampdown, paris lockdown, indian expressA worker at a Paris bar sweeps up after closing early to comply with new Covid-19 restrictions forcing bars and cafes in the French capital to close. (Photographer: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images Europe)

Written by Joe Mayes, Thomas Penny, Ania Nussbaum and Patrick Donahue

Londoners will be banned from mixing with other households indoors and Paris is set for a curfew, as European leaders struggle to cope with record new coronavirus cases around the region.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government will mandate tighter restrictions in the U.K. capital starting this weekend, while French President Emmanuel Macron will confine residents of nine of the country’s biggest cities to their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. for four weeks from Saturday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel renewed an appeal to citizens to abide by hygiene and distancing rules and avoid groups.

London Households Banned From Mixing as Rules Tightened

The moves come as Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic all reported record increases in cases, and London approached an average of 100 infections per 100,000 people. European authorities are grappling with how to devise targeted strategies that slow the spread of the disease without resorting to the kind of broad national lockdowns which decimated economic activity in the second quarter.

Merkel struggled to forge a consensus with regional German leaders in a meeting that dragged on for more than eight hours into Wednesday night. Her chancellery minister, Helge Braun, said measures agreed for hard-hit areas — including closing bars and restaurants at 11 p.m. and extending mandatory mask wearing — are unlikely to be sufficient to tame the “enormous infection dynamic” seen in recent days.

“There can be absolutely no question that this is the start of a very broad second wave,” Braun, a qualified medical doctor, said Thursday in an interview with ARD television. “The longer we wait and the more indecisive we are, it’s not only key for our health but also for our economy.”

Merkel was unable to agree with state premiers on restrictions on domestic travel, with some officials arguing that they are unnecessary and ineffective. Germany recorded 7,173 new cases in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, exceeding a high during the previous peak of the pandemic in late March.

“Economically we can’t afford a second wave with the same consequences as we had in the spring,” Merkel said. “What we do and don’t do in the coming days and weeks will be key to the question of how we make it through this pandemic.”

European infections began a resurgence in the late summer, fueled by returning travelers and young party-goers. Local family, work and social gatherings have since spurred further contagion.

The varied approaches around Europe to deal with the disease have caused confusion and stoked unrest amid the pandemic-weary public, especially amid low hospitalization and death rates — which nonetheless are now steadily rising. Leaders have little recourse but to implore people to knuckle down.

The region as a whole recorded almost 700,000 new cases last week, the most since the pandemic began, and taking the total to just below 7 million, according to the World Health Organization. Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounted for over half of all new cases.

Outside London, U.K. officials are also attempting to tame the virus with new restrictions. Northern Ireland is planning to close schools from Monday and impose curbs on pubs and restaurants, and Wales wants to restrict travel from English hot spots, with new regulations coming into force Friday.

In France, daily cases have jumped to more than 17,000 from less than 12,000 a week ago, and more than 40% of intensive-care beds in the Paris region are taken by Covid-19 patients. Prime Minister Jean Castex and ministers are due to provide details on the new measures later on Thursday.

New French Restrictions

Traffic during curfew hours is restricted to emergencies, people working
Fines range from 135 euros to 1,500 euros
Current rule for mask wearing remains in place
Gatherings should be limited to six people
Restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas, theaters are closed after 9 p.m.

Macron said Wednesday the situation in hospitals is “unsustainable” and the goal is to bring new cases down to 3,000 to 4,000 a day. “We are learning how to be a nation again,” he said. “We had become used to being individuals. But we are a united nation, and we will succeed.”

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that the nation will “be in trouble again” if the rising trend persists and for the first time declined to rule out a new nationwide lockdown. The country reported a record 7,322 new infections on Wednesday.

“I’m not making any predictions,” Conte said when asked about a virologist’s warning that the country could be under lockdown by Christmas. “A lot depends on how citizens behave.”

Czech Reserves
Czech Health Minister Roman Prymula said the government wants to avoid a collapse of hospitals, but that “unfortunately, the rising numbers are approaching a level when it may happen.” The nation had 9,544 new cases Thursday, also a record.

“That means we now really have to mobilize reserve capacities,” Prymula said. “We will mobilize various stadiums, halls so that we can place beds there and provide as much care as possible.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya pushed back against reports that the spread of the virus and the political tussling over how to contain it are sparking concerns in Berlin. Spain has registered 300,000 new cases over the past month, bringing the total number of infections to almost a million.

Bigger Damage
In an interview with Bloomberg Television Thursday, Gonzalez Laya insisted that the Spanish outbreak is “under control” and criticism of her government’s fight with the Madrid region over tighter restrictions is unfair.

“What’s happening in Spain is not unlike what happens in the Laender in Germany,” she said. “When the central government tells the regions they need to take tough measures, some of them are not happy about that.”

Austria reported a record 1,552 new infections on Thursday, bringing the seven-day incidence to 92 per 100,000 people. Capital Vienna, Tyrol and Salzburg all have an incidence of above 100.

“The coming weeks will decide whether we can slow down and contain the spread of the virus, or if the pandemic will inflict even bigger damage to the health system, jobs and companies,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

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