In a statement to parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was trying to take a balanced approach between the extremes of “closing our lives and our economy” and giving up the fight.
“We don’t want to go back to another national blockade,” he said, “but we can’t let the virus break.”
Johnson has announced a three-tier warning system in which the areas of greatest concern ̵
“These figures flash like warnings on the dashboard of a passenger plane, and we must act now,” Johnson added during an evening news conference.
Countries across Europe are seeking compromises in a similar way as they struggle to delay the resurgence of infections and hospital admissions. However, they face more anger and frustration from business and people than in the spring.
Ravi Gupta, a microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, said that in Britain and other European countries, “complete blocking is off the political agenda”, in part because the “fear factor” around the new coronavirus is not what it was in the spring.
Although full locking is best for limiting deaths and surrender, he said, “It is clear that people cannot tolerate long-term restrictions outside of authoritarian regimes.”
France has hinted that it may impose additional restrictions after a jump in cases and hospitalizations. On Saturday, authorities announced 27,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours – a record. And on Monday, health officials said the number of people hospitalized for covid-19 had exceeded 8,600 for the first time since late June.
“If we see that the indicators are deteriorating over the next two weeks, if the intensive care beds are filled even more than we expect, we will really take additional measures,” said Prime Minister Jean Castex, urging people to limit home gatherings.
The French government has avoided imposing a second national blockade, but has issued new restrictions – especially on restaurant capacity and time to sell alcohol – in large urban areas.
French President Emmanuel Macron is due to address the nation on Wednesday night.
In Spain, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez relied on emergency powers on Friday to prevent travel to and from Madrid, repealing the conservative local government, which favored a blockade at the neighborhood level.
The opposition was evident during the celebration of Spain’s National Day on Monday. People gathered in front of an event at the Royal Palace to sanctify Sanchez’s government, and the far-right Vox led a caravan to protest the “criminal and totalitarian government”.
The Madrid region has reported more than 20,000 new cases of coronavirus in the last seven days, making it one of the worst affected areas of the second wave in Europe.
In Belgium, the cases diagnosed last week were 89 percent higher than the previous week. A spokesman for the national coronavirus response, Yves Van Laem, warned on Monday that if current trends do not stop, the number of people in intensive care units in late October could rival the heights seen in March and April.
“All indicators continue to rise alarmingly,” Van Laem told reporters.
On Monday, Germany added Munich to its growing list of “red” areas of coronavirus, causing new restrictions. From Wednesday, bars and restaurants in Munich will have to stop serving alcohol after 10 pm. Wearing masks will be mandatory for pedestrians and no more than two households or up to five people can meet in groups. Private indoor events are limited to 25 participants and outdoor events to 50. The rules will remain in force for at least two weeks, until October 27..
In Italy, the number of daily cases has not reached that observed in some other Western European countries, but the trajectory is still worrying. And unlike the spring, when the outbreak affected mainly the country’s richer north, it is now reaching southern areas with fragile economies and hospital systems.
Last week, Italy issued a national mandate for masks to be worn both outdoors and indoors, and so far most appear to be complying. The government is now considering new steps, which would include banning private parties and limiting the number of guests at weddings and funerals, according to Reuters, citing a draft decree.
On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte rejected another blockade at the national level, but said local blockades could be used if necessary.
In England, as elsewhere, there is a retreat from the severely affected hotel industry. Many are concerned that businesses may not survive the latest wave of restrictions.
Nicola Story, who runs the mustard pub in Leeds, said one of the most disappointing things was that there was no end in sight. She said her pub had already made “thousands and thousands of pounds” during the full blockade in Britain and was worried that more economic turmoil was imminent. “We don’t seem to have a solution to the end point, so it’s just more restrictions, but for how long?” There doesn’t seem to be a plan to get out of this. “
Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, said he was “deeply skeptical” that Johnson had a strategy to deal with the crisis. He noted that Johnson’s strategy, which focuses on local outbreaks, has not led to a reduction in numbers. “Twenty districts have been in constraints for more than two months, with an increase in the rate of infection in 19, some with very large numbers,” Starmer said.
In the United States, President Trump has cited growing cases in Europe to defend his record.
“A big leap in the Chinese plague in Europe and other places that Fake News used as examples of places doing well to make the United States look bad,” the president tweeted, a week after his hospitalization for Covid-19. “Be strong and vigilant, it will continue. Vaccines and drugs are coming fast! “
Chico Harlan in Rome, Michael Birnbaum in Riga, Latvia, James McAuley in Paris and Luisa Beck in Berlin contributed to this report.