Europe struggles to curb virus with records in Spain, France

Europe's biggest states are imposing fresh restrictions to curb the spread of rising coronavirus cases amid a second wave and looming winter season.
Spain had a record 5,075 cases in the past 24 hours.
Spain had a record 5,075 cases in the past 24 hours.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - France and Spain posted record increases in coronavirus cases, underscoring growing alarm in the region as it loses control of the pandemic.

New infections in France increased by 18,746, health authorities reported on Wednesday (Oct 7). The seven-day rolling average of new infections, which smooths out daily variations, rose to 12,853, its highest level yet.

That was more than triple the number of new cases in Spain, which had a record 5,075 in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data published on Wednesday.

Including adjustments for older cases, the total number of infections rose by 10,491 to a total of 835,901 since the start of the pandemic.

In Germany, meanwhile, the number of new cases on Thursday exceeded 4,000 for the first time since early April.

Politicians at the national level are leaning on local authorities to take the lead in limiting late-night activity in cities and towns, as they fear the economic impact of more wide-ranging measures.

France's surge came as restrictions return, with President Emmanuel Macron's government ordering bars in Paris to close for a two-week period.

Statistics agency Insee warned on Wednesday that prolonged curbs could lead to another contraction in France's economy, after it downgraded the country's growth forecast to zero from 1 per cent.

More than 36 per cent of intensive care beds in the Paris region are taken by Covid-19 patients, and that could reach 50 per cent within two weeks unless the new measures have the desired effect, Mr Aurelien Rousseau, head of the regional health agency, said in an interview with BFM TV on Monday.

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care in Paris hospitals has tripled since the start of September, similar to the situation in the Marseille region.

Like Paris, Berlin is fighting against a surge in infections and will close bars at 11pm, starting on Saturday.

The German capital has the worst outbreak among the country's 16 states, with 40.5 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days, according to the country's public health authority.

The city's residents would be restricted from domestic travel if the figure rises above 50 - some districts already exceed this threshold.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and state leaders reaffirmed the rules during a conference call on Wednesday.

Coronavirus infections across the whole of Germany climbed by 4,010, the highest since April 10, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

That brought the total to 311,137. There were 21 new fatalities, lifting the overall number of deaths to 9,571.

NEW EPICENTRE

Across the border from Europe's largest economy, the Czech Republic posted a record 4,457 new cases on Tuesday, and the country's 14-day cumulative number of cases per capita is now the highest in the EU, surpassing Spain.

The government will announce "more significant" measures to stem the outbreak at the end of the week, Health Minister Roman Prymula said on Wednesday, reaffirming a pledge not to impose another full-scale nationwide lockdown.

The virus's resurgence in Italy - where numbers have been more contained than in some neighbouring countries - twice prevented parliamentary votes earlier this week on new measures to combat the pandemic, as a number of lawmakers were in quarantine.

A Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended emergency powers to counter the pandemic to Jan 31.

The government again made wearing face masks outdoors compulsory nationwide.