Friday, October 30, 2020

Europe battles to contain virus as cases spike across the region

Oct 08. 2020
Pedestrians walk past a closed restaurant at night in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 7, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Paul Hanna.
Pedestrians walk past a closed restaurant at night in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 7, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Paul Hanna.
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By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Rudy Ruitenberg, Geraldine Amiel, Lenka Ponikelska, Naomi Kresge · BUSINESS, WORLD, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS, EUROPE

European countries stretching from Spain to Ukraine posted record increases in coronavirus cases, underscoring growing alarm in the region as it struggles to control the pandemic.

Local authorities are being pushed to take the lead in limiting late-night activity in cities and towns, as national politicians fear that more wide-ranging measures could result in another collapse in economic activity. Several cities, including Paris and Berlin, have imposed more severe restrictions to try to rein in the social activity blamed for helping spread the disease.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron's government ordered bars in Paris to close for a two-week period and said more curbs will be announced later on Thursday. The Czech Republic is also considering additional steps.

"There must be more restrictions such as the ones put in place" in the region of Marseille, where bars and restaurants were shut, Macron said in a TF1 interview.

Daily infections in France increased by 18,746, health authorities said on Wednesday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to the highest level yet. Spain reported a record 5,075 new cases, while infections in Germany in the past 24 hours exceeded 4,000 for the first time since early April.

France's health minister will announce measures on Thursday that will focus on places where the virus is circulating faster among elderly people and where hospitals are the fullest, Macron said. The number of covid-19 patients in intensive care in Paris hospitals has tripled since the start of September, similar to the situation in the Marseille region.

Like Paris, Berlin is fighting against a surge in infections and will close bars at 11 p.m., starting on Saturday.

The German capital has the worst outbreak among the country's 16 states, with 40.5 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days, according to the public health authority. The city's residents would be restricted from domestic travel if the figure rises above 50. Some districts already exceed the threshold and one local newspaper, citing its own calculations, reported Thursday that the city as a whole had edged above it.

Coronavirus infections across the whole of Germany climbed by 4,010 in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, the highest since April 10, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That brought the total to 311,137.

The numbers are "very worrying," Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a briefing. While ruling out the idea of a second national lockdown, Spahn called for targeted local restrictions and appealed to individuals to avoid situations where the virus is likely to spread, such as indoor gatherings and poorly ventilated areas.

The pandemic is "a character test for us as a society," Spahn said. "I want us to pass this test, and we can do it, but we can only do it together."

Across the border from Europe's largest economy, the Czech Republic on Thursday posted a record 5,335 new cases for the previous day. The country's 14-day cumulative number of cases per capita is now the highest in the EU, surpassing Spain.

The government will announce "more significant" measures to stem the outbreak at the end of the week, Health Minister Roman Prymula said Wednesday, reaffirming a pledge not to impose another full-scale nationwide lockdown.

Austria also recorded a record number of daily infections on Thursday, with Vienna accounting for more than half of the 1,209 new cases. Ukraine recorded an additional 5,397 infections, which is also the highest one-day total.

In Poland, covid-related deaths jumped by a record 76 to 2,867 in the past 24 hours. The government is expected to announce measures to stem infections in Warsaw at a press conference later on Thursday.

The virus's resurgence in Italy -- where numbers have been more contained than in some neighboring countries -- twice prevented parliamentary votes earlier this week on new measures to combat the pandemic, as a number of lawmakers were in quarantine.

A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended emergency powers to counter the pandemic to Jan. 31. The government again made wearing face masks outdoors compulsory nationwide.




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