France expected to introduce national lockdown

Elias Hubbard
October 29, 2020

Champagne corks popped in Australia's second-biggest city as a months-long coronavirus lockdown ended on Wednesday, contrasting with deepening gloom in Europe where France and Germany were set to reintroduce curbs. The UN health agency said virus-related deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35 percent spike since the previous week, as well as hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to discuss the country's current epidemiological situation in an address to the population later in the day.

"We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency", German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as she announced a four-week partial lockdown starting Monday.

"I am a little afraid because corona is not a small disease", said Nidhi Kumari, a 21-year-old student.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization on Tuesday showed Europe reported 1.3 million new cases in the past seven days, almost half the 2.9 million reported worldwide, with over 11,700 deaths, a 37% jump over the previous week.

France is preparing this week to order people to stay in their homes except for essential journeys, work, or exercise, in a fresh attempt to curb the Covid-19 epidemic, according to two industry sources familiar with the government's planning.

Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic are seeing similarly high rates of infection, while Germany was still colored in orange - indicating that the average number of new cases there is still under 120 per 100,000 over the last 14 days.

Merkel had pressed governors of the country's 16 states to quickly agree upon a partial lockdown.

Talks of new lockdowns has also prompted unrest in Germany, where thousands staged a protest at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to demand more financial support from the government.

The virus is blamed for more than 250,000 deaths in Europe and about 227,000 in the USA, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States, which saw more than 500,000 cases over the past week, has seen record daily infections and, while many countries in Asia have largely brought the disease under control, China reported 42 new cases on Tuesday, its highest daily toll in more than two months.

In Italy, Milan's mayor, Giuseppe Sala, spoke out Wednesday against a lockdown in the Lombardy capital, the epicenter of Italy's new virus resurgence.

Germany's BGA, a lobby group for the services sector, said restaurant closures would inflict a "death blow" on many businesses and called instead for tighter measures to restrict contagion in people's homes.

The Czech government has further tightened its regulations, imposing a nationwide curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. that started Wednesday.

"One doesn't need to be a virologist to conclude that, without further restrictions, the number of new daily infections will likely rise", said Gitzel, adding that a short, strict lockdown could be effective.

More than 2 million new confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported globally in the past week, the World Health Organization said.

As the race to find a treatment or cure gathers pace, Pharma giant Pfizer voiced measured optimism Tuesday about the prospect of a vaccine becoming available this year, saying it could supply some 40 million doses in the United States if clinical testing proceeds as expected and regulatory approval is granted.

"The strict containment measures in March and April laid the ground for an economically successful summer", he said.

Germany will shut bars, restaurants and theatres from November 2-30 under measures agreed between Merkel and heads of regional governments.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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