Twenty-two countries in Europe hit a record high in daily coronavirus infection numbers yesterday.
The countries which recorded on Thursday their highest ever number of cases since the start of the pandemic are Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
France saw the biggest spike with 30,621 new cases, taking its total past 800,000, and Italy saw its death tally almost double.
The UK hit its record high of the pandemic on October 4, with 22,961. Yesterday 18,978 new cases of coronavirus were reported – but the latest ONS figures suggest infection numbers are much higher.
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Of course it is difficult to compare these figures to the first wave in the spring due to increased testing capacity, but the continent is definitely experiencing increased hospitalisations and deaths.
Here’s what the latest situation with Covid-19 is looking like around Europe.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Germany is ‘heading for disaster’ after the country broke its record for infections two days in a row.
The country recorded 6,600 new cases yesterday, bypassing its previous record set back in March.
It also reported 33 new deaths yesterday, which is triple the figure recorded a week ago though still less than its European neighbours.
Ms Merkel warned neighbouring European countries were having to take ‘very drastic measures.’
She and Germany’s 16 state governors agreed to restrictions including an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants, group size limits of 10 people and compulsory use of masks in busy outdoor areas.
But the chancellor lost her temper with state leaders at the late-night talks on Wednesday, telling them: ‘What we’ve agreed is not enough to ward off disaster.
‘If you ask me what it is that worries me, it’s the exponential rate of increase. We have to stop that. Otherwise this won’t end well.’
But a court in Berlin has today overturned the pubs curfew order, after 11 bar and restaurant owners submitted urgent requests against it.
An administrative court ruled ‘it was not apparent’ that the measure would stop the spread of Covid-19. Instead, the court deemed it more likely new infections would stem from private gatherings of families and friendship groups, meat-processing plants, religious gatherings or community facilities.
Germany added all of continental France and the Netherlands to its lengthy list of high-risk areas, meaning travellers coming from there must go into quarantine for two weeks or until they provide a negative test.
Bavaria’s outspoken governor, Markus Soeder, hammered home the importance of taking action now, arguing that ‘everything that comes later will cost more.’
‘I’ll even go so far as to say that Europe’s prosperity is at stake,’ he added.
France has reported more than 100 deaths a day on average this week – which is triple that of Germany.
It recorded more than 30,621 new infections yesterday and the number of daily hospitalisations rose to 1,741, which is 77 more than on Wednesday.
The proportion of coronavirus tests that have come back positive is also now at 12.6%.
Health minister Olivier Veran added France currently has some 5,800 beds on intensive care wards.
At the height on the pandemic at the start of April, more than 7,000 coronavirus patients were in intensive care. The number fell sharply until the end of July, but has since started to rise again.
Aurelien Rousseau, director of the Paris region’s public health agency, said nearly half of its intensive care beds are now occupied by coronavirus patients, with other hospital beds filling rapidly too.
He said: ‘It’s a kind of spring tide that affects everybody simultaneously. We had a blind spot in our tracking policies. It was the private sphere, festive events.’
President Emmanuel Macron has put 18 million residents in nine regions, including Paris, under a 9pm curfew starting on Saturday.
France will deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce the curfew and will spend an additional 1 billion euros to help businesses hit by the new restrictions.
Prime minister Jean Castex said: ‘Our compatriots thought this health crisis was behind us, but we can’t live normally again as long as the virus is here.’
It comes as French police yesterday searched the homes of a former prime minister, the current and former health ministers and other top officials in an investigation into the government’s pandemic response.
It was triggered by dozens of complaints over recent months, particularly over shortages of masks and other equipment.
Italy recorded another 83 deaths yesterday, which is a rise of almost double its 43 fatalities on Wednesday.
But this is still far fewer than at the height of the pandemic when a daily peak of more than 900 fatalities was reached and hospitals began to reach capacity.
The number of cases also hit a new record with 8,803, as the southern Campania region announced it will shut schools until the end of October.
Some 1,127 people tested positive in Campania yesterday, which is the second hardest-hit region after Lombardy.
The Czech Health Ministry confirmed 9,721 new virus cases yesterday, over 900 more than its previous record.
The government announced yesterday that schools will be closed and the military will set up a virus hospital at Prague’s exhibition centre.
Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said: ‘We have to build extra capacity as soon as possible. We have no time. The prognosis is not good.’
The governor of the German state of Bavaria also said his region has received a request to treat Czech coronavirus patients.
The Netherlands recorded 6,844 cases yesterday, which is a massive increase after it barely saw a first peak in March.
In response the country has moved to close bars and restaurants.
Poland registered a record of 8,099 new cases yesterday.
Masks have been required outdoors since Saturday and strict limits have been imposed on the size of gatherings.
Portugal moved to restrict social gatherings to a maximum of five people, while preparing to make masks mandatory outdoors and to impose fines on those disregarding the rules.
It recorded a record high of 2,101 new cases yesterday.
Other countries in Europe
Here are the other countries in Europe which hit record new highs of coronavirus cases yesterday:
- Albania: 257
- Austria: 1,552
- Belgium: 8,271
- Bulgaria: 819
- Croatia: 793
- Georgia: 919
- Greece: 492
- Ireland: 1,186
- Lithuania: 255
- Malta: 112
- North Macedonia: 443
- Romania: 4,013
- Slovakia: 2,075
- Slovenia: 745
- Ukraine: 5,992
Spain, which has the third highest levels of Covid-19 in Europe behind France and the UK, hit its peak on September 18 with 14,389 cases. Yesterday it recorded 13,318 new infections.
Even Sweden, which has chosen a much-debated ‘herd immunity’ approach of keeping large parts of society open, raised the prospect of tougher restrictions after its case numbers have started to rise.
Prime minister Stefan Lofven said: ‘Too many don’t follow the rules. If there is no correction here, we must take sharper measures.’
He didn’t elaborate what those measures might be.
The European markets took a hit, dipping by more than 2% as fears grew over the impacts of further lockdown restrictions.
The World Health Organisation said the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France and the UK are among the countries causing particular concern for case numbers.
Its head of the Europe office urged governments to be ‘uncompromising’ in controlling the virus.
He said most of the spread is happening in homes, indoor spaces and communities not complying with protection measures.
‘These measures are meant to keep us all ahead of the curve and to flatten its course,’ Dr Hans Kluge said, while wearing a mask, ‘It is therefore up to us to accept them while they are still relatively easy to follow instead of following the path of severity.’
European nations have seen nearly 230,000 confirmed deaths in total from the virus, which more than the nearly 217,000 deaths reported so far in the United States.
But experts agree these statistics understate the true death toll of the pandemic.
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