France on Wednesday became the last European country to step up anti-coronavirus measures, imposing an evening hour in Paris and eight other cities on Saturday, while Germany and Ireland also increased restrictions.
“We have to act. We have to stop the spread of the virus,” President Emmanuel Macron told public television, announcing a halt between 9pm and 6am, which will remain in force for up to six weeks.
Other major French cities, such as Lyon, the Mediterranean port of Marseilles and southwestern Toulouse, will also impose a curfew, affecting a total of about 20 million people out of a total population of 67 million.
Just minutes before Macron̵
With more than a million coronavirus deaths and nearly 40 million worldwide, regions like Europe that suppressed the first outbreak are once again facing a difficult choice of how to control a new wave without the economic devastation caused by the nationwide blockade.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced stricter measures for collecting and wearing masks.
“I am convinced that what we are doing now will be crucial to how we go through this pandemic,” the leader said.
New infections in Germany continued to rise on Wednesday, pushing out 5,000 cases in 24 hours, a level not seen since the blockade imposed on Europe’s largest economy in the spring.
“We are in a situation where I think we can still mitigate exponential growth,” said Lothar Wheeler, head of the German Disease Control Agency. “But we all have to work for that.”
– deterioration of the situation –
In Spain, bars and restaurants will be closed in the northeastern region of Catalonia over the next 15 days, as the country is dealing with one of the highest levels of infection in the European Union, with nearly 900,000 cases and more than 33,000 deaths.
In the Netherlands, where new measures have also come into force, including restrictions on the sale of alcohol and new requirements for masks, people drank and danced to pump techno music in the last minutes before all cafes, bars, restaurants and cannabis closed.
Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin has announced a number of new curbs along the border with the British province of Northern Ireland, including the closure of non-essential retail outlets, gyms, swimming pools and leisure centers.
Earlier Wednesday, the Northern Ireland delegated government announced plans to close pubs and restaurants for four weeks, tighten restrictions on social gatherings and extend mid-term school holidays to counter the growing number of cases there.
The rate of infection “needs to be reduced now or we will really be in a very difficult place very soon,” Prime Minister Arlene Foster told members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
– Disaster lock –
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also under increasing pressure to impose tougher measures to slow the spiral in England, including a two-week blockade of the “switch”.
Johnson said a new blockade in the UK would be a “disaster”, but declined to rule it out as the government’s scientific advisory committee approved a temporary suspension.
And in Italy, authorities registered 7,332 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number the country has ever seen.
Rome has already imposed new, stricter rules to control the resurgence of the virus, including the cessation of parties, amateur football matches and snacks at night bars.
Across Europe, the death toll in the United States rose by 794 in one day to 216,597, according to Johns Hopkins University, just three weeks before a key election in which the pandemic played a central role.
Another 52,160 have become infected in the last 24 hours, an increase of 0.7 percent.
On Wednesday, Iran announced new travel restrictions affecting the capital Tehran and four other major cities, as well as new one-day recordings of both Covid-19 deaths and new infections.
And the death toll in neighboring Iraq since the pandemic has risen to 10,000.
At least 1,089,039 people worldwide have died from the coronavirus since it appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, according to AFP data using official data. At least 38.3 million cases have been reported worldwide.
In online talks, finance ministers and G20 central bankers agreed to extend the moratorium on debt repayment by the world’s poorest countries for another six months and followed another extension in the spring.
The virtual talks, organized by the current president of the G20 Saudi Arabia, took place a day after the International Monetary Fund warned that global GDP would shrink by 4.4% in 2020 and the damage caused by the pandemic would be felt by years.
– Drug failures –
As Europe imposed new restrictions, hopes for vaccines or treatment for relief were dashed by the suspension of two clinical trials in the United States.
The US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly said on Tuesday that it had stopped the phase 3 trial of antibody treatment due to an unspecified incident, the second in less than 24 hours after Johnson & Johnson faced a similar problem with its vaccine candidate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow has registered a second vaccine called EpiVacCorona, developed by a top-secret Siberian laboratory to follow its first Sputnik strike.
burs-spm / jh / ch