International Affairs

COVID19: A Second Wave in Europe

The second wave of Covid-19 infections is sweeping across Europe. There has been an abrupt rise in confirmed cases of infections and deaths since late August in United Kingdom, France, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, among others.

In a prime-time TV interview recently the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, said, ‘We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus. We have to reduce the number of social contacts.’ He also announced overnight curfews – 9pm to 6am – across Paris and eight other big cities in the country. The curfews, that took effect from Saturday, 17 October, is proposed to last for six weeks, as stated by the Prime Minister of France, Jean Castex. On Saturday, the day the curfew began, the French health ministry reported 32,427 new confirmed cases, and on Wednesday 166 deaths in 24 hours. ‘If we fail to stop the pandemic, we will be facing a dire situation and we will have to envisage much tougher measures,” Castex said in a news conference on Thursday, 22 October. 

This new development, however, did not sit well with restaurant and bar owners who usually, due to the nature of their business, make high turnovers during these curfew hours. ‘Closing at 9pm will have no effect. They’re not attacking it in the right way,’ Gerard, the Manager of Toulouse restaurant, said. In his defense, there were no travel restrictions in place, so the risk for contagion moved about as freely as people did during the day.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the country’s 16 federal states had agreed to apply stricter measures to curb the rising spread of the virus, especially in cities with more than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period, which is already the case in Berlin, Frankfurt and some other cities. The country’s capital, Berlin, already observes an 11 pm curfew for bars and restaurants. Laws around mask-wearing and social distancing, which had relaxed over the summer, have been tightened again. More restrictions like curfews in more cities and restricted sale of alcohol in the hospitality sector, tougher limits on public and private gatherings, were also considered. In her weekly video podcast, Merkel said: ‘Difficult months are ahead of us. How winter will be, how our Christmas will be, that will all be decided in these coming days and weeks, and it will be decided by our behaviour.’

On 21 March, at the peak of Italy’s Covid-19 outbreak, they recorded 6,557 cases of infection in 24 hours; however, on Wednesday, 21 October, a new high was recorded: 7,332 cases of infection in a single day. Masks had been made mandatory again, masks were even advised indoors when one has guests over.

Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries with the Covid-19 Pandemic, had burst through the dark times, tending towards flattening the curve. In the beginning of summer, as Covid-19 cases reduced, restrictions relaxed and lockdowns removed, life had almost settled into normalcy. People travelled for holidays and had picnics with friends and family, embracing all the company they had lost in the days of the lockdowns. Closed establishments reopened and public life resumed. But all that is about to change again as the country is on the verge of plunging into another dark time.

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In Portugal, gatherings have been limited to five people, the exception being weddings and baptisms, allowing up to 50 guests. University parties are banned and a national state of emergency has been declared in order to combat, as Prime Minister Antonio Costa said, a serious increase in coronavirus infections. Poland recorded 6,526 new infections and 116 deaths. Their healthcare systems are becoming overloaded and it is alleged that Poland’s government considers setting up military field hospitals for Covid-19 patients. 

In Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babis, during a live news conference said, ‘I am sorry for the new restrictions that will impact the lives of business owners, citizens, employees. I am sorry for having de facto ruled out the possibility of this happening because I could not imagine that this would happen.’ He pleaded with people to follow strict lockdown rules, as the Covid-19 outbreak in Czech Republic is fast becoming one of the worst in the world. During the first wave of the viral outbreak in spring, Czech Republic had acted ahead of other countries: they imposed early lockdowns and enforced compulsory mask-wearing before most western world countries did. And in summer, seeing their progress with the control of the epidemic, the strict enforcements were relaxed and normal life began. But this backfired. Babis said, ‘We certainly made mistakes when we thought at the end of May, when we finished the reopening, that we had managed it.’

All around Europe, governments continue to fight this second wave of coronavirus that is spreading faster than the first wave.

Basit Jamiu

Photo Credit: ECDC

Categories: International Affairs

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