In Depth

Coronavirus: how European countries are faring with second spikes of Covid-19

Italy and Spain have recorded highest daily death tolls since spring

After shutting their borders and introducing strict lockdowns during the first wave of coronavirus, many European countries are doing it all over again as a second wave of infections sweeps across the continent.

But while the UK has gone head first into a second nationwide lockdown, some other governments are trying more targeted measures as case rates creep back up.

Austria

The number of daily infections in Austria, a country of 8.8 million people, has risen from around 1,000 in early October to a record high of 9,586 on Friday, according to latest figures.

The spike has prompted Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to announce a second lockdown, which is set to last until 6 December and covers schools and shops.

While Austria was “held up as a model to follow during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic”, the return to lockdown has “sparked a backlash against the government”, France 24 reports. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober has insisted that the measure is needed as an “emergency brake” to prevent intensive care services from being overloaded.

France

Confirmed Covid cases in France passed the two million mark this week, despite a second national lockdown that began at the end of October and is expected to last until at least the beginning of next month.

Under the restrictions, people are only allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons. Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, have closed, but schools and factories remain open.

Although France has seen a “steep decline” in the number of reported coronavirus cases in recent days, Health Minister Olivier Veran this week confirmed that “he wouldn’t be able to provide a date for the end of the draconian national restrictions”, the Daily Mail reports.

Germany

Germany reported a new record of 23,542 daily infections on Friday, “dampening hopes that a national partial lockdown might be lifted soon”, the BBC says. 

The country entered what national newspaper Bild termed a “lockdown lite” on 2 November. Permitted contact has been reduced to a maximum of two households and no more than ten people, and restaurants and bars are closed apart from for takeaways. Public transport and schools remain open, however.

Despite the continuing rise in cases, Angela Merkel has said that she does not have the backing of German state leaders for new restrictions to give the “soft” lockdown a “harder bite”, The Guardian reports. The chancellor has postponed any decision until after a scheduled meeting with 16 state premiers next week.

Italy

Italy registered 32,191 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, up from 27,354 the previous day, and reported 731 Covid 19-related deaths - the highest daily toll since 3 April.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported last week that the region of Lombardy alone was registering close to 7,600 new Covid-19 infections every day, breaking records set during the peak of the first wave.

After a series of soft, localised curfews in late October did little to stem the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a stricter set of tiered measures on 6 November that are due to last until 3 December.

Lombardy, Piedmont, Aosta Valley and Calabria have all been classified as the highest “red” tier, “despite fierce debate with the regional governors fearing the economic effects of another shutdown”, says the BMJ.

Spain

Spain recorded 435 new Covid deaths on Tuesday, the country’s highest daily toll yet in the second wave of the coronavirus. The total number of cases now stands at just over 1.5 million.

During the first wave of the pandemic, the Spanish government introduced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with residents confined to their homes and only allowed out for essential business.

But despite the latest case rate increases, Madrid has ruled out a lockdown, “arguing that the measures allowed under the current state of alarm, such as the curfew and restrictions on movement, are enough to lower contagions”, says Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Portugal

Portugal has also seen infection rates rising in recent weeks, with 4,452 new Covid cases reported on Tuesday, and 81 related deaths.

Since Monday, three-quarters of Portugal - including Porto and Lisbon - has been under the government’s toughest curfew restrictions. The curfew is in force from 11pm to 5am on weekdays, and from 1pm to 5am on weekends.

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