New restrictions in the largest cities in France, one million tests and partial confinement for 13% of the population in Spain and new limits on gatherings in the United Kingdom. Across Europe, there is a resurgence in the number of covid-19 cases, with the World Health Organization (WHO) warning of “alarming transmission rates” on the continent, and governments, though reluctant to cause the new shutdowns of economic activity are forced to resume some of the restrictive measures that had been previously removed.
The resurgence of cases is particularly strong in Spain and France. In Spain, according to data released on Saturday, 14,389 new cases were recorded on Friday, contributing to the average of the last seven days breaking the barrier of 10,000 new daily cases, a value higher than those surrounding them. 8,000 who reached the peak recorded in March, at the start of the pandemic.
The scenario is widespread throughout Spain, but it is particularly worrying in Madrid, where the cumulative number of cases is already 682 per 100,000 inhabitants. A figure well above the national average of 267. Among the Spanish regions most affected are Navarre, with 558 cumulative cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and La Rioja, with 420.
In France, the number of new cases recorded on Friday exceeded 13,000. Here too, as in Spain, the daily rate of new infections exceeds that recorded at the start of the pandemic. Over the past seven days, the daily average was 8,800 new cases, more than the peak of 8,400 recorded in mid-April.
Spain and France, with 215 and 129 new daily cases per million inhabitants, currently exceed 117 new cases per million registered inhabitants, for example in the USA. In Portugal, this indicator has been hovering around 80 in recent days.
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In other countries, although less intense, the increase in cases is also very evident. In Germany, there were 2,197 new cases on Friday, a rate that has not been seen since April. And in the UK, the number of new cases has once again exceeded 6,000. Other central European countries, which in the first phase of the pandemic managed to avoid large numbers of cases, are now experiencing significant acceleration. Slovakia and the Czech Republic are examples of this phenomenon.
In view of these results, the WHO, which for some time has focused its attention on other parts of the world, has raised the tone of the warnings concerning Europe. “We are facing a very serious situation,” said WHO director for Europe Hans Kluge, noting that “more than half of European countries have recorded increases in the number of cases of more than 10% over the past two weeks. “, and that” in seven of those countries, the number of new cases has more than doubled in the same period “.
Another WHO official, Maria Van Kerkhove, expressed concern about the responsiveness of European health systems. “We have not yet reached the peak of influenza, so we are concerned that the increase in hospital admissions and the need for intensive care will overload an already under great strain on a system.”
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In this scenario, several European governments are announcing measures to try to contain the acceleration of the pandemic. They do so, for the moment, in a partial manner, by targeting regions or sectors of activity where the rate of contagion is particularly high.
The return to total confinement, in the style adopted at the start of the crisis, has not been announced in any European country. This only happened in a neighboring country, Israel, where authorities chose Friday to enter a second national lockdown, closing restaurants, hotels or gyms, on the eve of the start of the period of highest holiday in the country.
In Europe, after seeing economies experience record declines in the second quarter of the year and still trying to strengthen the timid recovery seen in the following months, governments, including Portugal, are trying to avoid taking measures which lead to a new total shutdown of activity.
Even so, we are already seeing the return of strong restrictions in several parts of Europe, this time adopted in a more surgical and partial manner.
In Spain, the executive and regional authorities have chosen, within the Madrid community, to orient themselves towards mobility restrictions in 37 areas, those where the incidence of cases is the highest. There are approximately 850,000 people who are prevented from leaving their area of residence except in cases of absolute necessity, such as going to work, going to the doctor or going to school.
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At the same time, the Spanish authorities will move towards mass tests to better identify the sources of contagion. About a million people will be tested within a week.
In France, where Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that he had also contracted the disease, restrictions were imposed in Marseille and Bordeaux during the week, for example limiting visits to retirement homes, holidays on The beaches. or public events, even those that take place outdoors. New measures of the same type are planned in other large French cities.
Several other countries have announced measures in recent days. The Irish government has banned the use of indoor spaces in restaurants and bars and has discouraged foreign travel. In Greece, companies were forced to keep 40% of employees teleworking, meetings were limited to nine people, concerts suspended and cinemas closed, all in the Athens region. In the Netherlands, the closing time for bars has been brought forward to one in the morning.