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Europe to tighten restrictions as global coronavirus cases top 30 million

Medical personnel treat a Covid-19 patient in Strasbourg, 15 September 2020
Medical personnel treat a Covid-19 patient in Strasbourg, 15 September 2020 AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
Text by: David Coffey with RFI
4 min

Large parts of Europe are gearing up for broad new restrictions to stop the coronavirus this Friday, after infections worldwide topped 30 million as the World Health Organization warns of "alarming rates of transmission".

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France is set to roll out new curbs for major cities and the UK is limiting gatherings as governments across the European continent battle fresh spikes of Covid-19.

More than 943,000 people have now died from the disease since it first emerged in China late last year with Europe accounting for more than 200,000.

WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said a surge seen this month "should serve as a wake-up call" after the continent recorded 54,000 infections in a single day last week -- a new record.

"Although the numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region," Kluge told an online news conference from Copenhagen.

The French authorities are preparing tighter restrictions in several cities to curtail a resurgence that has seen nearly 10,000 new cases per day in the past week.

This Friday morning, the southern French city of Nice ordered that all bars be closed from 00h30 to 06h00, gatherings are to be restricted to under 10 people and public events will be limited to 1,000 people. 

Health minister Olivier Veran said Nice and Lyon would be under the new rules by Saturday, after curbs on public gatherings were imposed earlier this week in Bordeaux and Marseille.

Europe-wide restrictions

Meanwhile, the Spanish capital says it has been overwhelmed by the virus and has called for "decisive" action from the central government, which is set to unveil a raft of new restrictions later this Friday.

Madrid officials warned that the region's healthcare system was coming under increasing pressure, with one in five hospital beds occupied by Covid patients amid a second wave of the illness.

Anxiety has been growing in the city about the prospect of a return to lockdown after a top regional health official on Wednesday raised the possibility for the worst-hit areas.

In Britain, new curbs will take effect today, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that pubs may have to close earlier to help avoid a "second hump" of infections.

About two million people in northeast England, including in the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, will no longer be allowed to meet people outside their homes. Only table service will be allowed in bars and entertainment venues will have to close by 10pm.

The government already imposed rules across England on Monday limiting socialising to groups of six or less, as daily cases reached levels not seen since early May.

Global impatience and anger

This comes amid growing anger grows over how authorities worldwide have responded to the virus, with some governments facing legal action from citizens for alleged failures.

A French association of Covid-19 victims are reportedly planning to file a legal complaint against Prime Minister Jean Castex

Suits have also been filed in China by bereaved relatives but many have had them abruptly rejected, while dozens of others face pressure from authorities not to file, according to people involved.

Families of victims accuse the governments in Wuhan and Hubei province, ground zero for the global pandemic, of concealing the outbreak when it first emerged, failing to alert the public, and bungling the response, allowing Covid-19 to explode.

(With Wires)

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