Europe

More lockdowns in Europe as virus outbreaks explode

VIENNA • Austria and Greece yesterday became the latest European nations to impose curbs to combat the coronavirus surge, with a deadly terrorist attack in Vienna ahead of a partial lockdown compounding the misery.

The virus has infected over 46 million people worldwide, with more than 1.2 million deaths, and the acute outbreaks in Europe and America are sparking further alarm about the state of the already devastated global economy.

Austria’s cases in recent weeks have surged well past the levels recorded in spring, forcing the government to impose a curfew between 8pm and 6am from yesterday until the end of the month.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had announced the measures last Saturday, describing them as “dramatic interventions in our social life”.

No meetings will be allowed between people from more than two households, and there will be limited curfew exceptions for care responsibilities and essential work travel. Universities and high schools will move to distance learning, but kindergartens and other schools will remain open.

A two-week lockdown was also due to come into force yesterday in Greece’s second-biggest city Thessaloniki, with flights suspended and everything closed except schools. The restrictions follow localised lockdowns in the regions of Kozani and Kastoria last month .

The Covid-19 crisis has deepened in Europe in recent weeks, with health experts warning that the spikes in infections could overwhelm healthcare infrastructure across the continent.

To curb the spike in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to citizens to help achieve a “turnaround” by respecting a new round of shutdowns from Monday until the end of the month.

Much of Portugal also faces a lockdown from today while France, having imposed its second shutdown last week, is also preparing to further tighten restrictions.

England will begin a new lockdown tomorrow, bringing it in line with other parts of Britain and Europe.

France could reimpose a night curfew on Paris, and possibly the Ile-de-France region around the capital, amid government frustration that too many people are ignoring the new lockdown.

46m

Number of people infected worldwide, with more than 1.2 million deaths.

It’s unbearable for those who respect the rules to see other French people flouting them. There is an attitude of what will be will be. We need to take all the steps needed to fight the epidemic.

The country dramatically slowed the spread of the virus in spring with one of Europe’s most draconian lockdowns. But 10 months into the pandemic and with winter drawing near, many are reluctant to endure another period of confinement.

“It’s unbearable for those who respect the rules to see other French people flouting them,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM TV. “There is an attitude of what will be will be. We need to take all the steps needed to fight the epidemic.”

He presented the new curfew as a fait accompli but the office of Prime Minister Jean Castex said a final decision had not been taken.

The matter will be discussed at a meeting between President Emmanuel Macron and senior Cabinet ministers today, a government source said.

In Paris, one person was becoming infected with Covid-19 every 30 seconds, while a Parisian is admitted to hospital with the disease every 15 minutes, Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio.

The French health authorities reported 52,518 new Covid-19 cases on Monday.

France imposed a nightly curfew on two-thirds of its 67 million people in the second half of last month, but this was lifted when President Macron ordered a second lockdown, albeit less rigid than the first, which took effect last Friday.

Mr Castex’s office said a renewed curfew for Paris had been proposed by police after it became clear that too many people were out late at night and breaching lockdown rules.

The lockdown forced the closure of all non-essential businesses like bars and restaurants, banned private gatherings and saw the return of sworn declarations needed to leave home. Schools remain open.

But some Paris residents have complained privately that neighbours are still hosting house parties in defiance of the rules, while some parents say friends are still organising playdates for their children.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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