MILAN (AP) – Doctors warn that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus is sweeping back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments are trying to impose restrictions without locking entire economies down.
As recently confirmed cases reached records, the Czech Republic has closed schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a curfew at 1 p.m. 21 in Paris and other major cities. In the UK, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the north of the country, while setting boundaries for socializing in London and other parts of the country.
“This is a serious situation that should not be underestimated. It is serious at European level, “said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday.
Europe is not alone in seeing a resurgence. In the United States, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, and deaths per capita. Day rises in 30.
“If we do not address this, we risk getting into a situation that is more difficult to control,”
But while officials are sounding the alarm about the rising cases, they are also wary of imposing stricter nationwide lockdowns that devastated their economies in the spring. Instead, they try more targeted restrictions.
France deployes 12,000 additional police to enforce its new curfew; Saturday night will be the first time that companies will be forced to close at. 21.00 Restaurants, cinemas and theaters are trying to figure out how to survive the forced early closures.
Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told the newspaper Le Parisien that she was negotiating exemptions from a month-long curfew throughout the Paris region and eight other metropolitan areas.
One cinema chain starts opening at 8am in hopes of compensating for losses in the evening. Since Paris restaurants generally open at 19 or 19.30 for dinner, some may close completely because it no longer makes economic sense to be open to such a short shift.
“The French cultural world is not invincible, it needs help,” writer and filmmaker Yoann Sfar, who has a new film on the way out, said on RTL radio on Friday.
Italy, the first country outside Asia to detect local transmission of the virus, has banned pick-up sports and public gatherings after health officials said the resurgence had reached “an acute phase” after a period of relative mercy following its particularly severe shutdown. . Speranza, the health minister, told reporters that any new measure in Italy, including curfews, must be “considered.”
Massimo Galli, director of infectious diseases at Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital, said Italy’s rise – which hit pandemic heights of new daily infections this week – is not the result of record testing, as decision-makers have suggested, but a sign of a real return. . among the populations most at risk of developing serious illness if they are infected.
This is a worrying trend as the tide of severe cases has the potential to flood hospitals and it is one that can be seen in other countries on the continent as many see even higher numbers than Italy.
France, Spain and the United Kingdom registered more than 300 infections per year. 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks compared to Italy’s fast but relatively low 106.
The Czech Republic reported over 700 people infected per capita. 100,000, and the country’s military will begin building a field hospital in the Prague Exhibition Center this weekend – a reminder of the dark days of spring, when many countries established temporary facilities to ease the pressure on overwhelmed medical centers. The government is also negotiating with neighboring Germany and some other countries that the Czechs should be treated there if the health system cannot handle them.
In Italy, Milan is the epicenter of the resurgence, and it also sees its hospitals strained. Sacco’s COVID-19 department was the first in town to start filling up.
“We have a situation very reminiscent of the one we have already experienced,” Galli told the Associated Press, referring to the peak in March and April, when Italy hit its record of 969 deaths in one day. The country recorded 83 deaths on Thursday – twice in previous days, but far from previous levels.
Already in Milan, Galli said the number of elderly patients or people with other risk factors is growing, indicating that the virus has gone beyond the initial spread in late September, with most cases being mild or asymptomatic caught by screening and contact tracing .
Since then, mixing among families, within companies and among students outside of school has promoted the spread to more vulnerable people, he said, renewing the pressure on Milan hospitals.
“The trend is already there and it is frankly alarming,” he said, although he noted that not all of Italy was yet experiencing an increase.
But that, he said, can only be a matter of time. Galli said Italy “follows in the footsteps of its European neighbors unless the transmission chain is blocked for the next two weeks.
Galli fears that new nationwide restrictions adopted over the past two weeks – including mandatory outdoor masks, a ban on picking up sports bets among friends and restaurant closures at midnight – are not enough. He called for more restrictions on public transport and leisure activities if the authorities want to avoid another blockage – bad for both the economy and the social structure.
While Italy’s shutdown in the spring bought it more time, Galli said the current resurgence shows “how quickly there is a risk of wasting the results of even a very crucial and very important intervention.”
Charlton reported from Paris.
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