New regulations and social-distancing rules are being introduced across multiple European countries in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus as the second wave of the pandemic has already accelerated across the continent.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Europe reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week, its highest single week count yet. Wall Street Journal said, the number has surpassed US's daily detected infections in October.
Spain and France each surpassed 1 million cumulative confirmed cases last week, becoming the sixth and seventh countries to do so globally. Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom are also experiencing record numbers — threatening to overwhelm countries' abilities to test, trace and contain the virus. Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for the virus over the weekend, as cases have doubled there in recent weeks.
Although, so far the death toll is very minimum compared to the all over deceased during the peak period of March-April, almost a fraction of that number. But still, Europe is approaching hard measures to avoid a second lockdown.
France has become the worst-hit country in Europe's second wave, with average daily infections rising by nearly 50% in the past week alone. Nightly curfews have been in place in several cities since mid-October, and this weekend, multiple new curfews were enacted, bringing the total number of people affected to around 46 million, or about two-thirds of France's population. As their Prime Minister Jean Castex said in a press conference, "The situation is grave."
Spain has issued a nationwide curfew between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am and limited social gatherings to six people. As the country has now a total of 921,374 confirmed cases — more than any other European country. According to the Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez socializing and nightlife have been among the main causes of Spain's rebound in virus cases, that is why "extreme measure" has been taken.
"The situation is grave," French PM
Italy, the epicenter of Europe's first wave, managed to reduce infections to fewer than 200 a day this summer, but is now struggling with an explosive rebound. Confirmed infections surpassed 20,000 on Sunday. The country's latest measures, due to run from Monday until November 24, include the closure of all bars and restaurants at 6 pm, the suspension of many sporting and leisure activities, and a return to online lessons for high-school students. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte acknowledged rising popular frustration but said the measures were the only way to avoid another lockdown.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a move to a "high" alert level for London and other cities as of October 17, banning residents from mixing with people from other households indoors and restricting outdoor gatherings to six people or fewer. The House of Commons is preparing to issue a directive on banning alcohol sell throughout the country.
"If we do this now and if we then have a consistent set of national rules, to keep the transmission and the intensity of the virus at a lower level, then we can have a much more normal Christmas season for businesses," Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, told BBC Radio Wales.
Last week, Ireland became the first country in Europe to reimpose a lockdown in the face of soaring cases.
Wales began a 17-day lockdown this weekend, shuttering all nonessential businesses and requiring people to remain home, with few exceptions. "If we do this now and if we then have a consistent set of national rules, to keep the transmission and the intensity of the virus at a lower level, then we can have a much more normal Christmas season for businesses," Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, told BBC Radio Wales.
Detected cases have also risen strongly in Poland and Germany, which had until recently successfully kept the virus under better control than other major European countries.