Michel Euler / AP
New rules and regulations for social distancing are introduced in several European countries in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus when another wave of pandemic accelerates across the continent. Europe reported more than 1.3 million new cases in the past week, the highest number of weeks yet, according to the World Health Organization.
Spain and France each surpassed 1 million cumulative confirmed cases last week, becoming the sixth and seventh countries to do so globally. Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom are also experiencing record numbers – threatening to overwhelm the countries’ ability to test, track and contain the virus. Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for the virus over the weekend, as cases have doubled there in recent weeks.
Europe’s infection rate has risen for more than 90 days, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. As authorities and experts worry that the situation in Europe may soon get out of control, governments are introducing curfews and social restrictions in an effort to avoid complete lockdowns that could hurt the economy and dampen the upcoming holiday season.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Sunday declared a national state of emergency, which included a curfew and possible travel restrictions between regions. Italy also announced new measures to curb the virus, which is the hardest since its shutdown last spring, when the country was the global epicenter of the pandemic.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the transition to a “high” level of alarm for London and other cities from 17 October, banning residents from mingling with people from other households indoors and limiting outdoor gatherings to six people or less.
Last week, Ireland became the first country in Europe to reintroduce a lockdown in the face of soaring cases.
Wales began a 17-day shutdown over the weekend, shutting down all non-essential businesses and demanding that people stay home, with few exceptions. “If we do this now, and if we then have a coherent set of national rules, to keep the transmission and intensity of the virus at a lower level, then we can have a much more normal Christmas season for businesses,” Vaughan Gething said. the Welsh Minister of Health BBC Radio Wales.
France has become the hardest hit country in Europe’s second wave with over 40,000 new cases every day for the last few days. Night curfews have been in place in several cities since mid-October, and this weekend several new curfews were passed, bringing the total number of people affected to around 46 million or around two-thirds of France’s population.
“The second wave is here,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a news conference when the new restrictions were announced. “The situation is serious.”