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Millions across Europe faced greater restrictions on their movement over the weekend when Italy was ready new measures and London and Paris enforce tighter curbs in an escalating attempt to control the rise in coronavirus cases.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte can order bars and restaurants to close at 22, banning some sports activities and changing classes for colleges to prevent congestion, according to officials in his government who asked not to be identified in accordance with their policies. He is ready to announce his plans on Sunday night. The country reported a record 1
Switzerland will require masks in public indoor spaces that take effect Monday, and gatherings of more than 15 people are banned, President Simonetta Sommaruga said. In London, rules came into force banning people from mingling with other households indoors, while residents of Paris and eight other French cities are restricted to the home between 6 p.m. 21 and at 6 for four weeks.
In Belgium, which has the most cases per Population in Europe except the Czech Republic, the government announced plans for new restrictions nationwide from Monday. Ireland is expected to approve tighter measures on Monday.
With the exception of Belgium, Europe’s leaders have mostly stuck to local restrictions targeting urban hotspots, after broad shutdowns earlier in the year triggered some of the worst recessions in memory. But when the region is heading into winter, when people are not able to spend that much time outdoors, and the transmission rate is likely to increase, it seems to return to any sense of normalcy.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz urged Austrians to slow down social contact and monitor health measures to avoid another shutdown in a videotaped message on social media.
“If we all manage without private festivities, large gatherings, parties, we can slow down the spread and keep schools open, the economy and large parts of social life,” Kurz said.
The increased restrictions come when new cases hit daily records across large parts of Europe. The UK reported nearly 17,000 new cases on Sunday and has added more than 100,000 infections in the past week. France reported a record 32,427 infections on Saturday.
Italy’s coalition is divided over the new restrictions. Some in the government are seeking even stricter rules, while Conte insists the outbreak is now very different from what the country faced earlier this year, so the measures should reflect the current situation, Italian media reported, including Il Corriere della Sera. Regional leaders are meeting Sunday with some ministers to try to agree on new rules, which Conte will announce later in the day.
Authorities in the Lombardy region, which includes the financial capital of Milan, already asked bars and restaurants to close at midnight on Friday, suspended games and banned companies from serving alcohol after 1 p.m. 18 except for patrons sitting at the tables. Restrictions on colleges and sporting events were also announced.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier went into quarantine after a bodyguard tested positive for the virus on Saturday, a spokeswoman said. Steinmeier has tested negative twice since confirming the bodyguard’s infection.
In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said hospitality restrictions, along with curfews from midnight to 6 p.m. 5 and curbs on the sale of alcohol and gatherings take effect Monday for four weeks. Working from home will be mandatory where possible. Bars in Brussels were already closed last week.
“In many ways, the numbers are worse than in March or April,” De Croo said during a news conference. “And I bring no good news: these numbers are likely to continue to rise in the coming days.”
Read more: Europe loses battle to stay open on Record Virus Surge
Belgium’s experience suggests that the prospect of national shutdowns is growing more likely, even after leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron promised to do everything possible to keep their economy afloat.
Ireland’s cabinet is ready to approve new measures on Monday, after health officials recommended moving the entire nation to a level 5 lock, the strictest shutdown as cases rise to levels in late April. While the government may stop just outside of a return to an almost total shutdown, there are among the potential measures closure of non-essential stores, closing of all pillars and restrictions on distances people can travel from home.
In Spain, bars and restaurants are closed in the Catalonia region around Barcelona, while in Austria Kurz is trying to channel what he called the “team spirit” that citizens showed during the first wave of infections this spring. The government has scheduled a meeting with the country’s nine provinces on Monday to decide how to reduce social contacts after the country posted a record increase in new cases on Saturday.
“The second wave is here,” said Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset. “It happened faster than we expected, but we are ready for it.”
– With the help of Rodrigo Orihuela, Tommaso Ebhardt, Dara Doyle, Karin Matussek and Boris Groendahl
(Updates with new Italian numbers in the second section and British numbers in)