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European wide Covid measures

France’s European neighbours get tougher on Covid with new restrictions

People wearing protective face masks walk in a busy street in Paris as France reinforces mask-wearing in public places as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across France, September 18, 2020.
People wearing protective face masks walk in a busy street in Paris as France reinforces mask-wearing in public places as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across France, September 18, 2020. REUTERS - GONZALO FUENTES

With over one million coronavirus deaths and nearly 40 million Covid-19 cases worldwide, regions like Europe which paid a heavy toll during the first outbreak are again facing tough choices on how to control a new wave without the economic devastation brought on by nationwide lockdowns.

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France on Wednesday became the latest European country to toughen anti-coronavirus measures, imposing a curfew in Paris and eight other cities from Saturday.

Here's a look at the new or heightened measures being put in place by some of France's European neighbours.

Germany

New cases of coronavirus infections soared to 6,638 in the past 24 hours, official data showed Thursday, reaching a daily level not seen since the start of the pandemic.

The alarming jump in numbers came just hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the leaders of Germany's 16 federal states to agree tougher restrictions.

Under the new measures, if an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will become mandatory in all places where people have close contact.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the leaders of federal states to discuss new restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, 14 October 2020
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the leaders of federal states to discuss new restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, 14 October 2020 Pool/AFP

The number of people allowed to gather will also be limited to 25 in public and 15 in private spaces.

Once a threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 is exceeded, even tougher restrictions will apply, such as limiting private gatherings to 10 people or two households, and the closure of restaurants after 11pm.

Spain

Bars and restaurants will close across the northeastern region of Catalonia for the next 15 days as of Thursday evening as the country tackles one of the highest rates of infection in the European Union, with nearly 900,000 cases and more than 33,000 deaths.

The announcement came as Madrid's regional leaders were locked in a political standoff with the central government over imposition of a partial lockdown in the capital and eight surrounding towns to slow the rampant spread of cases.

The restrictions, under which some 4.5 million people cannot leave the city limits and bars and restaurants must observe an 11:00 pm curfew, initially came into force on 2 October but were briefly suspended by the courts, prompting the central government to step in, overriding regional opposition.

The Netherlands

Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday announced that the country would go into semi-lockdown, its strictest measures since March.

Virus cases hit a record of more than 7,000 on Tuesday, making it the country with the third highest infection rate compared to its population, after Belgium and the Czech republic.

Rutte has said the partial lockdown -- under which mask-wearing has been made compulsory in indoor public spaces, but schools remain open -- will be reviewed after two weeks, but is expected to last at least four.

Like restaurants, coffeeshops can sell their wares for takeaway only, but must stop at 8:00 pm. Supermarkets and shops are meanwhile barred from selling alcohol after the same time.

Republic of Ireland

The prime minister Micheal Martin announced a raft of new curbs along the border with the British province of Northern Ireland, including the closure of non-essential retail outlets, gyms, pools and leisure centres.

A person wearing a mask walks past a closed pub in downtown Dublin, 3 September 2020.
A person wearing a mask walks past a closed pub in downtown Dublin, 3 September 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Earlier on Wednesday Northern Ireland's devolved government announced plans to shut pubs and restaurants for four weeks, tighten restrictions on social gatherings and extend the mid-term school break to counter soaring case numbers there.

Martin also announced a ban on home or garden visits between separate households everywhere in Ireland -- which has suffered 1,835 coronavirus deaths to date.

Great Britain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also under increasing pressure to impose more stringent measures to cut spiralling rates in England, including a two-week "circuit-breaker" lockdown.

Johnson said a new UK-wide lockdown would be a "disaster" but refused to rule it out as the government's science advisory committee endorsed a temporary shutdown.

On Thursday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city of 9 million people would be moving into tier two or the high alert level of restrictions from this weekend.

"This would mean different households not being able to mix indoors," he added, as London MPs said the restrictions would kick in from midnight Friday into Saturday.

Italy

Italian authorities recorded 7,332 new cases on Wednesday -- the highest daily count the hard-hit country has yet seen.

Rome has already imposed new, tougher rules to control the virus' resurgence, including an end to parties, amateur football matches and snacking at bars at night.  

(with AFP)

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