Large parts of Europe yesterday geared up for broad new restrictions to stop COVID-19, after infections worldwide topped 30 million and the WHO warned of “alarming rates of transmission.”
Britain is limiting gatherings and France is set to roll out new curbs for major cities as governments across the continent battle fresh spikes of the disease.
More than 943,000 people have died from COVID-19 since it first emerged in China late last year, according to an Agence France-Presse tally, with Europe accounting for more than 200,000.
WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said that a surge this month “should serve as a wake-up call” after the continent last week recorded 54,000 infections in a single day — a 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.
Madrid said it had been overwhelmed by the virus and called for “decisive” action from the central government, which yesterday was set to unveil a raft of new restrictions.
Madrid officials warned that the region’s healthcare system was coming under increasing pressure, with one in five hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients amid a second wave of the illness.
Anxiety has been growing in the city about the prospect of a return to lockdowns after a top regional health official on Wednesday raised the possibility for the worst-hit areas.
“It would be bad for shops, for small businesses and little bars that survive on people coming in,” 55-year-old Maribel Quesada said.
“People are really sick of being at home, the [spring] lockdown was very difficult,” she said.
In Britain, new curbs were to start yesterday, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that pubs might have to close earlier to help avoid a “second hump” of infections.
About 2 million people in northeast England, including in the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, would no longer be allowed to meet people outside their homes. Only table service would be allowed in bars and entertainment venues would have to close by 10pm.
The government already imposed rules across England on Monday limiting socializing to groups of six or fewer, as daily cases reached levels not seen since early May.
French authorities announced that the city of Nice would ban gatherings of more than 10 people in public places, and bars are to be shut between 12:30am and 6am.
Authorities are also lowering the ceiling for attendance at public events to 1,000 people from 5,000.
France registered a record 10,593 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period, French Ministry of Health data showed on Thursday, the country’s highest-single day count since the pandemic began.
Separately, Chinese hackers have stolen information from Spanish laboratories working on a COVID-19 vaccine, El Pais reported yesterday.
It was not clear what information was taken, when it happened, nor how important it was, with the paper citing sources privy to the attack.
Quoted in the article, Spanish National Intelligence Centre Director Paz Esteban said that hackers had mounted “a particularly virulent campaign targeting laboratories working on the search for a vaccine” not only in Spain, but elsewhere.
Such attacks had multiplied in other countries involved in efforts to develop a vaccine, prompting an exchange of information between their respective spy services, she said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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