As COVID-19 Surges, European Leaders Impose New Lockdowns and Curfews
From USA TODAY
European leaders are ratcheting up pandemic restrictions as a second wave of COVID-19 cases batters Italy, Spain and other countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a full, nationwide lockdown starting Thursday and lasting until Dec. 1, though he said schools would remain open. In Germany, officials imposed a partial four-week lockdown Wednesday.
“We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The U.S. is also in the grip of a massive coronavirus surge, with 44 states reporting rising caseloads in the latest week, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The United States has had nearly 8.9 million cases and 228,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker.
President Donald Trump has insisted the U.S. is "rounding the corner" and has derided mask mandates and other COVID restrictions, even as the U.S. death rate has edged back up to about 800 Americans per day, a level not seen in more than a month.
In Europe, leaders are taking a dramatically different approach.
On Sunday, Italy ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6 p.m. and shuttered gyms, movie theaters and pools entirely. Spain's prime minister also imposed a night-time curfew on Sunday, and the government said local authorities could ban travel between regions, among other restrictions.
In France, Macron's decision to impose a national lockdown came just days after the government imposed a curfew covering an estimated 46 million people.
“(France has been) overpowered by a second wave,” Macron said in a televised address Wednesday.
France reported 288 new virus-related deaths in hospitals in 24 hours Tuesday and 235 deaths in nursing homes over the previous four days. Both figures marked the biggest such rise since May. The country's intensive care units are filling up with COVID-19 patients.
“Nothing is more important than human life,” Macron said. “We are having 40,000-50,000 new identified contaminations each day.”
'If everybody takes responsibility ...'
In Germany, restaurants will still be allowed to serve take-out food. Shops and schools will also remain open.
Germany’s disease control agency said a record 14,964 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the country's total infections to 449,275 since the beginning of the outbreak. Germany's total COVID-related deaths stands at about 10,000, the Robert Koch Institute said.
"The situation is very serious, but we can still slow down the spread of the virus if everybody takes responsibility," Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said during a news conference in Brussels.
The European Commission is the European Union's executive arm.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said that coronavirus cases in Europe leaped almost 40% over the previous seven days, to about 1.3 million new cases.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far resisted calls from some of his scientific advisers for a full, second national lockdown. Britain has the worst death toll in Europe, with more than 45,400 deaths. Instead, Johnson has implemented a three-tier system of restrictions for cities and regions, while devolved parts of the United Kingdom such as Wales and Scotland have developed their own rules based on localized infection rates.
Areas classified as "Tier 3" under Johnson's system, such as Liverpool and Manchester, are on "very high alert" and people who live in these areas are subject to a ban on all social mixing between households, indoors and outdoors. In addition, pubs and bars have been forced to close unless they can operate solely as a restaurant.
In "Tier 1" areas, where infections have not spiraled out of control, no more than six people can meet indoors or outdoors and all pubs and restaurants must close by 10 pm. In "Tier 2" areas, such as London, there are curfews for some businesses and people are not allowed to mix socially with people they do not live with. There are restrictions on the number of people who can attend events, such as weddings and funerals.
Schools have remained open in all areas.
Wales is in the second week of a complete lockdown that is due to end on Nov. 9. Almost all residents have been told to stay at home. Exceptions have been made for medical emergencies and for shopping for groceries and other essential items.
In her news conference Wednesday, Von der Leyen repeated a phrase often evoked by public officials when referring to coronavirus: "No one is safe until everyone is safe."