Europe battles soaring Covid caseload | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:43 AM, October 19, 2020

Europe battles soaring Covid caseload

Melbourne eases curbs as infections fall; NZ reports fresh case

Millions of Europeans faced tough new coronavirus restrictions as governments stepped up efforts to slow the surge in infections, after the World Health Organization reported a "very concerning" 44-percent rise in European cases over one week. 

Paris and several other French cities went under a nighttime curfew that will last at least a month. England banned mixed household gatherings in the capital and other areas, and Swiss imposed mask order for indoor public spaces.

The need for action in France was underlined as the country recorded another record for new cases, with over 32,000 registered in 24 hours.

Global cases of the disease, which has killed more than 1.1 million people around the world, have been soaring beyond levels seen in the first wave earlier this year, when many countries resorted to national lockdowns to get control of the crisis.

As well as the death toll, the pandemic has wrought social and economic havoc across the world.

Restrictions in Australia's second-biggest city were eased slightly yesterday following a steady decline in new cases, but officials stopped short of ending a controversial "stay-at-home" rule.

More than 100 days after the lockdown was imposed on Melbourne's five million residents to fight an out-of-control surge of Covid-19 cases, authorities said that as of midnight they were lifting a two-hour limit on the time people could spend outside their homes for permitted activities.

New Zealand reported one new case in the community yesterday, as the virus re-emerged in the country after many days of no transmission within its borders.

The Health Chief Ashley Bloomfield said in a news conference that the infected person was identified early, and risk of transmission was contained.

Ireland will bring in "decisive" nationwide Covid-19 restrictions today but will stop short of reintroducing the kind of lockdown imposed earlier this year, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said yesterday.

Long-time chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, diagnosed with coronavirus, was being hospitalised in Israel yesterday after his condition worsened, the Palestine Liberation Organization and his brother said.

There are also good signs in battle against coronavirus as Israel started "cautiously" emerging from a second lockdown yesterday after a month of tight restrictions, re-opening preschools, kindergartens, beaches and national parks, with numbers of new infections falling.

TIGHTER MEASURES

Britain is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with over 43,000 deaths from almost 700,000 cases.

But as the government there ramped up restrictions, banning indoor meetings between members of different households in London and several other English cities, there was growing criticism from some quarters.

Under the new measures, about 28 million people -- half of England's population -- are now subject to tight social restrictions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to stay at home whenever possible after 7,830 cases emerged over 24 hours.

"What will determine winter and our Christmas will be decided in the weeks ahead" by how people react now, she said in her weekly podcast address.

In Italy, the wealthy northern region of Lombardy worst hit by the first wave of the virus in February, has ordered all bars to shut at midnight.

Slovakia announced Saturday it would test everyone over 10 for the virus, as infections surged there.

"Testing will be free of charge," Prime Minister Igor Matoviche told reporters in the country of 5.4 million people, without specifying whether it will be mandatory or voluntary.

Poland, the Czech Republic and Belgium have all announced daily record caseloads.

In the Czech Republic, with record numbers of cases recorded, the government has asked the army to set up a field hospital of 500 beds outside Prague.

Belgium will impose its own curfew, from midnight until 5:00 am, from today, and will also shut cafes and restaurants for four weeks, reports AFP.

And Poland has closed schools and colleges in major cities while restaurants will have to close from 9:00 pm.

Malaysian health authorities reported 871 new cases yesterday, a record daily count, raising the country's total infections to 20,498.

The Southeast Asian country, which imposed targeted lockdowns this month as infections surged, also recorded seven new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 187, reports Reuters.

China reported 13 new cases in the mainland for October 17, the same as a day earlier, the health commission said yesterday.

All of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. China reported 34 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 11 a day earlier.

 

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