In order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the spring of this year, public life across Europe was brought almost completely to a halt. In the summer, many places relaxed those restrictions. For weeks now, however, infection rates have been rising in almost every European country. According to the World Health Organization, Europe is registering between 40,000 and 50,000 new coronavirus cases each day. That increase is down to more than just more widespread testing. The numbers from September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us,” said the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge. The weekly infection numbers have even exceeded those reported in the first phases of the peak in March, the WHO says.
With the increase of infections comes an increase in concern over new nationwide lockdowns. The particularly strict lockdowns in Spain and France imposed earlier this year sparked massive economic downturns, and now these two countries’ case numbers are once again surging. Nevertheless, France is hoping to avoid another nationwide lockdown — as long as that’s possible. Instead, authorities are tightening restrictions in particularly hard-hit cities such as Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nice and Toulouse. Gatherings have been banned, bars have their hours limited and visits to nursing homes have been restricted. For people in Paris and other areas, wearing a mask is required when leaving the house.
The situation is somewhat different in the United Kingdom. British Health Minister Matt Hancock told broadcaster BBC recently “a national lockdown was the last line of defense,” but also cautioned the government is “prepared to do what it takes.” Nearly 42,000 people have died due to COVID-19 in the UK, making it Europe’s hardest-hit country. Infection numbers have been rising for days, along with the number of coronavirus patient hospitalizations. That is why last week the UK began tightening social distancing requirements. The plan, as in much of Europe, is to stamp out sources of infection locally. In Birmingham, Glasgow, and other large cities, members of one household can no longer meet with members of another household in closed spaces, and meetings in public have also been partially restricted.
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