Europe eyes stricter measures as countries set all-time daily records

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A staff worker wearing a face mask stands in the doorway of a bar in Manchester, Britain, on Sept. 24, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

From new alert system to local lockdown, European countries have been stepping up efforts to contain the resurgent wave of COVID-19 as they record the highest daily cases ever and the cumulative cases in the region exceed seven million.

As of Monday afternoon, Europe had registered 87,100 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period, raising its total to 7,011,756, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Surging cases

In recent weeks, a number of European countries have recorded a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases, with some even breaking daily records at the peak of the pandemic earlier this year.

France, one of the hardest-hit in Europe, registered 26,896 new cases in a single day on Oct. 10, hitting an all-time high. This is in stark contrast to an average daily infection of some 4,500 in the first half of April when the spread of the coronavirus was accelerating and the epidemic started to overwhelm hospitals.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the number of cases in his country had quadrupled over the past three weeks and there were more people in hospital now with the respiratory disease than when the country went into lockdown in March. The country reported another 13,972 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 617,688.

Germany, which has been widely considered as a model in Europe when it comes to the tackling of COVID-19, registered 2,467 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 325,331 on Monday. Last week, daily infections in the country rose sharply, peaking at more than 4,000 on Oct. 8.

With a population of some 11 million, Belgium has seen "an almost exponential increase" in the number of COVID-19 cases, totaling 162,258 to date. The Sciensano national public health institute has reported a daily average of 4,154 new cases in the past seven days, a week-on-week increase of 89 percent. And the National Crisis Center estimated Monday that the country could reach 10,000 new infections per day by the end of this week.

Stricter measures

Amid the new wave of surging cases, European countries have been tightening restrictions to get a hold on the coronavirus, with several major countries rolling out new measures on Monday.

Johnson announced that a new three-level COVID-19 alert system will be implemented across England. Under the new rules, the country is divided into medium, high or very high-risk categories. "Very high" risk areas will see pubs, gyms, bars and casinos shut, with all but essential travel banned.

Noting that France is "in a strong second wave," French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that his government would envisage all options, including local confinement to slow down the rapid circulation of the virus and avoid strain in health institutions. He also announced that a new version of StopCovid, the app for tracking coronavirus patients, would be launched on Oct. 22.

With a cumulative caseload of 359,569, Italy is set to impose new restrictions on social life. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said that the new rules would include limits or a full ban on parties at home, as well as a prohibition for people to linger outside bars, clubs, and stores in order to avoid gatherings.

Also on Monday, Croatia announced that wearing a mask is now required in all public indoor settings where a minimal two-meter distance can not be maintained.

According to the WHO, face masks should be used as part of a comprehensive set of measures to suppress COVID-19 transmission and save lives. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, wearing masks in public has been widely accepted in Asian countries like China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

On Monday night, the Czech government announced more restriction measures to curb the spread of the virus, after the country had declared a state of emergency last week.

According to new rules, starting from Wednesday, all types of schools except for kindergartens will be closed in the country until Nov. 1. Restaurants, bars and clubs will stay closed until the end of the state of emergency scheduled for Nov. 3, and the drinking of alcohol in public places will also be banned.

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