European countries tighten virus curbs, France ‘critical’

Published March 28, 2021
People wearing face masks walk at Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower. — Reuters/File
People wearing face masks walk at Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower. — Reuters/File

PARIS: France, Belgium and Poland on Saturday tightened curbs as coronavirus cases surged in Europe while the Philippines prepared for a giant lockdown and Chile confined over 80 percent of its population.

France has admitted that the situation is “critical” and added three more departments to the 16 already under tight restrictions.

Around 20 million people in France, including those in the greater Paris region, are classed as living in high-infection zones.

They are not allowed to travel further than 10 kilometres (six miles) from their home unless they have an essential reason.

Checks at train stations, airports and toll-paying motorways began on Saturday to enforce the travel restrictions.

“About 10 police teams have been deployed against two in normal times” in Paris’s busy Montparnasse station, a police officer said, adding that these numbers would be increased during busy hours.

Only shops selling food, and book and music stores are open and classrooms in high schools are only running at half the capacity.

Daily cases in France have nearly doubled since the start of the month and there have been more than 200,000 new cases every week.

Belgium meanwhile closed all businesses involving non-medical physical contact such as hairdressers for four weeks from Saturday.

Shops offering “non-essential” services can only receive clients with appointments.

Poland closed creches, playgrounds, furniture and DIY stores, as well as beauty salons and barber shops.

Social distancing in churches in the predominantly Catholic nation has also been tightened with one person allowed in every 20 square metres (200 square feet) instead of 15 square metres earlier.

The Philippines announced on Saturday that more than 24 million people in and around Manila will go into lockdown next week.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2021

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