Europe faces more curfews, restrictions as virus cases swell

(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

ROME — Curfews were largely expanded Thursday across France, which registered some 41.600 new confirmed virus cases to approach a total of 1 million, while similar overnight restrictions were slapped on Italy’s three biggest cities — Rome, Naples and Milan — as rapidly rising caseloads across Europe prompted tighter limits on everyday ways of life.

In Greece, people in the Athens area and other parts of the country with high infection rates were also ordered to stay off the streets from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m.

“The aim is to reduce general movement and evening gatherings, which favor the transmission of the virus,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address. “With a little less fun, for a short period of time, we will have better health for a long time.”

Greece on Thursday reported a record 882 new confirmed cases, and 15 deaths. It also became one of a growing number of places in Europe to require mask-wearing outdoors in public.

Shortly after France’s prime minister, Jean Castex, announced that roughly two-thirds of the country would have to endure curfews, public health authorities reported that more than 41,600 new virus cases had been registered, a daily high since the country began widespread testing. The nation of 67 million jumped closer to the 1 million infections mark, with 999,043 confirmed cases by Thursday evening.

Said Castex: “no one is spared.”

A midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in Italy’s Lazio region, which includes Rome, begins on Friday and lasts for 30 days, under orders from regional governor Nicola Zingaretti. He was seriously sickened with COVID-19 when Italy became the first European country to be overwhelmed by an outbreak early in the pandemic.

The governor of Campania, the southern region which includes densely-populated Naples, on Thursday ordered residents to stay at home from 11 p.m. to shortly before dawn starting the next day. A similar curfew in Lombardy, where infections are particularly surging in its main city, Milan, will go into effect Thursday night.

Disco operators staged a protest in Rome on Thursday to highlight the economic woes the late night curfews will deal them.

Italy was Europe’s first country to be put under a national lockdown in March. But so far Premier Giuseppe Conte, wary of crippling the country’s long-lame economy, hasn’t repeated the drastic move — even as daily new confirmed infections hit a record of more than 16,000 on Thursday. Instead, for now, Conte has urged Italians to avoid “unnecessary” movements.

But the Czech Republic’s government on Thursday re-imposed exactly the same heavy restrictions it slapped on citizens in the spring — and which Prime Minister Andrej Babis had repeatedly said would not be repeated — amid a record rise in infections.

An apologetic Babis said that without the restrictions the nation’s health system would collapse in early November. The measures include limits on free movement and the closure of many stores, shopping malls and hotels, until at least Nov 3.

Poland broke another record in confirmed new infections Thursday with more than 12,100, and registered nearly 170 new deaths.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki suggested that, starting Saturday, Poland might be placed under tighter restrictions such as mandatory use of masks in all open public spaces, limits on the number of customers in shops and on public transport, and closing gyms and swimming pools.

Germany also reported a new daily record of more than 10,000 infections Thursday, shattering the previous high of 7,830 set five days earlier. Health Minister Jens Spahn, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, was quarantined at home.

Denmark also notched its highest one-day caseload of COVID-19 infections, 760.

Portugal is banning people from traveling between counties on the Oct. 31-Nov. 2 Halloween and All Saints’ Day weekend. The move is aimed at discouraging family gatherings, which are blamed for most of the country’s new infections.

Health Minister Marta Temido said she expected the daily tally to keep climbing in coming days. Portugal posted a new record of officially reported daily infections of 3,270 cases.

In Belgium, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, who as prime minister led the country’s fight against the coronavirus earlier in the outbreak, has been hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, her office said Thursday. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elke Pattyn told The Associated Press that Wilmes is conscious and her condition “is not worrying.”

With more than 1 million accumulated coronavirus infections, Spain mulled possible curfews.

“It is a reality that in some parts of our country, the epidemic is out of control,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told Spain’s Onda Cero radio.

With a 14-day rate of infection over 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents, more than three times the national average, the northern Navarra region has ordered all bars and restaurants closed and for shops and businesses to open only until 9 p.m. It also banned non-essential travel in and out of its regional borders.

Madrid, which for weeks was the hottest pandemic spot in Europe, has been under similar measures for nearly two weeks. And although it has seen a recent stabilization of contagion, Illa said more needed to be done there.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a three-tier alert system last week for England. In Wales, a two-week “firebreak” lockdown starting Friday will shutter all non-essential shops and ban most trips outside home.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Michael Martin has announced that for the next six weeks all non-essential shops must close, restaurants can only offer takeout, and people must not travel further than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from their homes. Schools will stay open.

Cyprus made mask wearing mandatory for anyone older than 12 in outdoor public spaces after daily infections hit record numbers in the last two weeks.


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