Most governments in Europe relaxed their strict coronavirus lockdowns over the summer in order to breathe some life into economies hit hard by the first wave of the virus and efforts to control its spread. That “return to normal”, however, has led to a spike in infections with cases rising to more than 120,000 a day.
And, perhaps, most daunting of all, efforts to again impose restrictions to slow the spread of the virus are being met with legal challenges, public protests, and spotty compliance.
Poland, which was spared a high death toll this spring, is now seeing a record of nearly 9,000 new cases a day. “We are on the brink of disaster,” immunologist Paweł Grzesiowski told The Guardian.
France epitomizes the battle over a new wave of measures to slow the spread of the virus. France, which reported more than 30,000 new infections on Thursday, has imposed a curfew in nine cities with a population of 18 million. The government will deploy 12,000 police to enforce it, and spend an extra €1bn to help already hard-hit businesses in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. Aurélien Rousseau, the director of the Paris region’s public health agency, told The Guardian that nearly half of the region’s ICU beds were occupied by Covid patients, with other hospital beds filling rapidly too.
In Germany, which had one of the strongest records in Europe at slowing the spread of the virus, cases rose to 6,600 on Thursday. That’s 300 more than the previous daily high from March. The country’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for lifting and imposing restrictions, have agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules, to force bars to close early, and to limit public gatherings in areas where infection rates are high. But German chancellor Angela Merkel argued for more with her chief of staff admitting the measures “probably won’t be enough.”
For comparison, U.S. rates of infection have started to climb too. The country reported 63,610 new coronavirus cases yesterday. That was the highest single-day total since mid-August.