PARIS: Germany on Wednesday imposed drastic curbs on people’s daily lives to contain a surge in coronavirus cases and France was set to follow suit as more than 500,000 infections were reported worldwide in a new daily record.
The deepening gloom across the continent and other parts of the world contrasted with the jubilation in Australia’s second city of Melbourne where champagne corks popped to celebrate the end of a months-long lockdown.
The pandemic has unleashed devastation across the global economy since emerging in China at the end of 2019.
On Tuesday alone, a record 516,898 new infections were registered worldwide, according to a tally from health authorities around the globe.
In the absence of a vaccine or cure, countries are being forced to impose widely unpopular Covid-19 restrictions that have sparked sometimes violent backlashes.
Much of the United States — the worst-hit nation — is also bracing for a tough winter, and the pandemic is dominating the campaign for next week’s election.
Reflecting the bleak outlook, European and US stock markets tumbled as investors fretted over looming stringent measures that are likely to further hurt the economy.
Faced with soaring cases, Germany ordered shut restaurants, bars and cafes on Wednesday, offering up to 10 billion euros in aid to struggling sectors to cushion the blow.
The restrictions, which kick in Monday and last to the end of November, will also limit the number of people gathering to a maximum of 10 individuals from two households, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced.
Schools and shops will be allowed to stay open, but swimming pools and other sporting facilities will be shut, and professional sports ordered behind closed doors, she added, acknowledging the measures were “strict” and “arduous.” French President Emmanuel Macron is set to follow suit on Wednesday evening and announce new measures that a government official said were likely to be “unpopular”, as doctors warn that many hospitals are days away from being overrun.
There is widespread speculation that he will decree a lockdown until the end of November, though it will likely be less strict than the stay-at-home orders in place earlier this year.
In Belgium, which has the most cases per capita in the world, the number of coronavirus hospital admissions has almost matched the level in the first wave in the spring, a public health institute said. Medics in one hospital in Liege are so overstretched that some staff who are themselves infected with Covid are continuing to treat patients.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo could announce more stringent measures soon.
Meanwhile Madrid will deploy drones at two of the largest cemeteries in the capital on All Saints’ Day, when Spaniards traditionally visit graves of their loved ones, to ensure restrictions are respected. Anger over anti-coronavirus curbs has already boiled over in Spain and Italy, where thousands have protested in recent days.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020