France announced a second lockdown and Spain declared a state of emergency giving authorities greater power to impose restrictions as many countries in Europe came in the grip of a second wave of COVID-19 that is spreading rapidly and putting a severe strain on the health infrastructure.
The daily new cases in European countries have doubled in the past two weeks, with the region reporting a record 250,000 infections on Wednesday, reported Reuters.
France has been forced to impose the second lockdown beginning Thursday night in which all non-essential businesses, including bars and restaurants, will remain closed but schools and some economic activities will be exempted as curfews imposed earlier to control the disease yielded little results. There is restriction on residents leaving their homes and they will need a certificate to do so. The lockdown will continue at least December 1.
The country reported its highest daily tally of 50,000 on Wednesday; it had been reporting an average of 40,000 new cases in the last few days. Much of Europe “is overwhelmed by the second wave that probably is more deadly than the first”, President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address.
France has so far reported over 1.2 million COVID cases with over 35,700 deaths.
Germany has also announced that it will impose a second lockdown from November 2 till the end of the month that will require bars, restaurants, gyms and theatres to remain shut, even as Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the winter would be long and hard. The speed at which the virus is spreading is what is making the pandemic so serious, she said. While the health system can deal with the current number of daily cases, if the current rate of infection continues, it will soon be stretched to the limit in just a matter of weeks, she said. “We have to act, and act now, to prevent a national crisis,” she said.
The country has witnessed over 480,000 cases, with the death toll standing at over 10,250. It reported its highest daily cases of 16,774 on Thursday.
In Spain, the government has announced an emergency till May next year that will give local authorities to impose curfews and restrict travel amid reports that a strain of the coronavirius that emerged in the country in June now accounts for most of the cases being reported in Europe. The strain has been responsible for over 90 per cent of the cases reported in Spain in the last two months, researchers said.
Spain has reported 23,580 new infections, taking the total number of cases to 1,136,503, the country’s health ministry said.
Italy has ordered bars and restaurants to remain closed in the strictest regulations announced after it lifted the lockdown imposed during the first wave. It had it highest number of daily cases on Thursday since the pandemic began, having reported 26,831new infections. It now has a total of 616,595 cases with 38,122 deaths.
Many people in Spain and Italy took to the streets to protest against increased restrictions as they feel frustrated by the hardship caused by the pandemic.
In the United Kingdom, calls for a second lockdown have been growing after advisory body Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said that a second wave could be more severe and deadly than the first.
Russia, which has approved a vaccine for COVID-19, reported a record number of daily cases with 18,283 new infections on Friday. The country now has about 16 lakh cases and an official death toll to 27,656.
Meanwhile, the European Union has decided to fund shifting of patients across borders to prevent hospitals in bloc from getting strained.